The Paris Deception

Cover of "The Paris Deception" by Bryn Turnbull
Bryn Turnbull
Oct 10, 2023

Hello and welcome to this week's edition of #NoWaitWednesday where we take a look at a great book on the New Release shelf at a local branch that's just waiting for you to place your holds. We know that patrons don't like being 432nd in line for the latest New York Times blockbuster, but there's always plenty of great stuff to read right under your nose.  

Our patrons have a seemingly insatiable appetite for lush and vivid historical fiction set around World War II. From "All the Light We Cannot See" by Anthony Doerr to "The Nightingale" by Kristen Hannah to "The Diamond Eye" by Kate Quinn, many of these titles and plenty more are still popular years after publication as patrons find out about them through book clubs, library book lists, and word-of-mouth. For today's #NoWaitWednesday pick, we wanted to highlight something that fits along those lines - although you might want to move fast, as even this title, based on a true story of two brave women saving art from the clutches of the Nazis during WWII, might not last on the shelves for very long.
The novel opens in 1938 with the German government burning modern art in a giant fire outside the Reichstag. The Nazis viewed modern art as a corrupting force and ridiculed paintings and sculptures they thought were too stylized or too abstract, calling them "Entartete Kunst" - degenerate art. Jumping ahead to 1940, the Nazis have invaded France, capturing many art museums and looting priceless artifacts along the way. Sophie Brandt, who fled Germany to France to pursue her love for art history, must make a difficult choice when she reluctantly accepts a position sorting through stolen artifacts - mostly from Jewish families - as the museum where she works, the Jeu de Paume Museum, becomes the epicenter and storage depot for much of the looted artwork. She decides to use her position inside the museum to protect the art she loves so much and that she believes is important to history. She approaches her brother's wife, Fabienne, a talented artist in her own right, and together they come up with a plan - create forgeries of the "degenerate art" that's slated to be destroyed and smuggling the originals out of France and to safety.

Author Bryn Turnbull creates an absolutely compelling tale, combining knowledge of early 20th century art world with the thrill of a well-planned heist novel guided by the engine of historical accuracy. Throughout the novel Sophie and Fabienne's plan could get discovered at any time, and the two face dangers and dodge many close shaves aiding the Resistance while forming a powerful bond that surprises both of them. A great example of Historical Fiction and Women's Fiction mixed together with a powerful message of historical bravery will please plenty of readers. 

For for those readers to truly prize historical accuracy, Turnbull devotes pages writing about the hero who inspired the novel: Rose Valland, the overseer of the Jeu de Paume museum in Paris during the time of the occupation, where she carefully tracked the movement of countless pieces of art and passed the information over to the Resistance, who were able to retrieve mush of what was looted. She received the Legion of Honour award - among the many others - for her efforts and vision.   

Reviewed by Gregg W.
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