Avenue of Spies | Alex Kershaw

TITLE / Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris

AUTHOR / Alex Kershaw

PUBLISHER / Broadway Books

DATE OF PUBLICATION / August 2, 2016 (originally published August 2015)

NO. OF PAGES / 320


It was June 1940 when German tanks rolled into Paris and occupied the City of Light. Those who hadn't managed to get out in time hunkered down for what was to be a reign of violence, terror, and suspicion. In Avenue of Spies, Alex Kershaw brings us the story of Sumner Jackson, an American doctor stuck in Paris with his family as some of the highest ranking Nazi officers flooded into one of the most beautiful and culturally significant cities in the world. As he struggled to keep his hospital open, Sumner found himself entangled with the French resistance and soon became a major player in covert opposition to the Nazi occupation.

This is the perfect book for the history buff who is more interested in how the everyday person experienced some of history's biggest moments. Kershaw tells the story of Paris as a hub of violence, political turmoil, and espionage through several figures involved in the French Resistance to Nazi occupation. Those figures include French politicians, British spies, and American volunteers like Doctor Sumner and his family. It is incredibly easy reading, with short chapters that read like documentary commentary and illuminate a very interesting and lesser-known aspect of the fight for Paris during World War II.

So you might be wondering, then why did I only give this three stars? Well, I have to apologize to Mr. Kershaw because the fault I find with the book has nothing to do with his writing. The problem was the way the publisher chose to pitch it: as the experience of the Jackson family and their foray into wartime espionage.

Don't get me wrong, Kershaw does spend more time following the Jacksons than any other figures included in the book. He continues to check in with the different family members throughout the book, which helps to create a frame of reference for the reader. And yet I would argue that the book is really less about the Jacksons and more of a portrait of Paris during one of the darkest moments in its history. The entirety of the French Resistance figures more into the book than the acts of just the Jackson family alone.

Sadly, I felt a bit betrayed by the cover copy and promotional materials. I was expecting - and looking forward - to read a detailed account of how one family experienced the occupation of Paris. And while what I got instead was very interesting and illuminating, it wasn't what I was promised.

About Avenue of Spies | About Alex Kershaw

Disclaimer: I received this book as part of the Blogging for Books program in exchange for an honest review. I was not paid to review or feature this book and this review is my 100% honest opinion. This is not a sponsored post.

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