There are endless stories lurking in the dark, historic corners of World War II Europe just waiting to be told. Some of these stories are historical fiction, borrowing against the high drama of the war and the epic struggle between light and dark it represented. There are also many true stories, no less dramatic, if not always as Hollywood-ready. And these stories are precious; as the generation that remembers them quickly begins to fade, these stories cannot be told fast enough. Avenue of Spies by Alex Kershaw is a true story that reads like a thrilling historical fiction.
Kershaw tells the story of an American doctor, Sumner Jackson, and his wife and son who live in occupied Paris. The family joins the French resistance to the Nazis, putting themselves at great risk since the Avenue Foch—their street of resistance and the titular “Avenue”—is also a hotbed of Gestapo agents.
The book is truly thrilling and rich in history. I found myself writing down place and people names to look up later, as well as carefully reading through the 40-page notes section in the back of the book. Kershaw has obviously done his homework, but he strings together a narrative with his research, sounding neither rote or sensational. Kershaw also gives a sense of the scale of conflict that frames the story, but his focus stays unwaveringly on the family at the center. By the end, the reader cares deeply what happens to this family.
I recommend this book whether or not you are a World War II history buff. Woven through this narrative are themes of sacrifice and family that are timeless and striking. What would you do if called on to put your family at risk in order to fight a great evil? In smaller ways than the Jackson family, we are confronted with value decisions like this on a regular basis, and so this story speaks to something universal.
Please Note: This book was gifted as a part of the Blogging for Books Reviewers Program in exchange for my unbiased review of this work. This has in no way influenced my opinion or review of this work.