Natasha Lester’s wonderful new novel, The French Photographer, follows the fictional life of Jessica May from 1942 through to the current day.
Model turned war photojournalist, Jessica runs up against army men who consider it their job to keep women in their place – behind the front lines. They would prefer she report on food stamps and fashion shows rather than the women and children trapped on the frontline of a war they didn’t ask for.
Jessica May and her colleagues have other ideas.
While Jessica May is a fictional character inspired by the real journalist Lee Miller, The French Photographer is filled with other women who really did spend World War II fighting the U.S. Army for access to the front lines in western Europe.
Martha Gellhorn, Jessica’s friend in the novel, was a real journalist. She became the first female war correspondent to land in Normandy after illegally boarding a hospital ship to get there. Iris Carpenter, Lee Carson and Catherine Coyne are other prominent women journalists from World War II who fought army protocols to gain access to the war and report on more than the supposed glory of battle. They reported on camps such as Ravensbrück concentration camp (which imprisoned only women), Buchenwalk and Dachau.
Early on in the story, Martha tells Jess that if women reporters don’t make it through to the war proper, “we’ll only hear stories of men, told by men.”
We would never have heard the stories of the widespread rape of local women by both sides of the military. We might not know what life was like for nurses at front line hospitals, who worked under incredibly difficult conditions for months on end, under the constant threat of being bombed any moment.
The French Photographer is an excellent example of the growing popularity of historical fiction which tells the often lesser-known stories – those of women and children.
I always love reading Natasha Lester’s historical fiction novels because I know the incredible research she conducts to ensure the historical settings and events are as true to life as possible.
The French Photographer, however, is not just a book of history. It’s a story of enduring love between two people who did everything in their power to protect those they loved, to their own detriment.
I highly recommend this book if you enjoy sweeping love stories with strong women, good men and plenty of historical detail.
Grab a copy from your favourite bookstore or online at:
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