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Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France [Format Kindle]

Nicholas Shakespeare

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Descriptions du produit

Revue de presse

“Once I started it I was hooked. And when I realised that she hadn’t been a brave and beautiful spy, I was double-hooked. Its truth is necessary and essential, and makes the last chapters terrifyingly poignant and moving.” (Julian Barnes, author of The Sense of an Ending)

“A fascinating, complicated story.” (Entertainment Weekly)

“Gripping.” (New York Times Book Review)

“A most strange and compelling book driven by the writer’s unsparing search for truth: now an optimistic hunt for a family heroine, now a study in female wiles of survival, now a portrait of one very ordinary person’s frailty in the face of terrible odds.” (John le Carré)

“A gripping excavation of a woman’s secret past, Priscilla is also a fascinating portrait of France during the second world war, and of the many shadowy and corrupt deals made by the French with their Nazi occupiers.” (Caroline Moorehead)

“As Shakespeare does his research, the mystery of Priscilla begins to recede....She is revealed as possibly less worthy-but maybe more intriguing…Our hunger to know what she thought and felt is a tribute to just how much of her he has been able to put on the page.” (New York Times)

“The story that unfolded is remarkable, and his account of it is riveting….Priscilla is, like almost all biographies, necessarily incomplete, but as a picture of France during the dark years of the occupation it is wonderfully full of light and shade, sympathetic and highly intelligent.” (Wall Street Journal)

“Fascinating….Shakespeare probes his aunt’s wartime years with finesse and pathos….His reconstruction of Priscilla’s life is meticulous and tantalizing.” (Boston Globe)

“This mysterious story of the Occupation in France has all the qualities of a fascinating novel, with exquisite social, sexual and moral nuance.” (Antony Beevor)

“In Priscilla, Nicholas Shakespeare captures the soul of a young Englishwoman who, to survive in Nazi-occupied France, is forced to make choices which few in England ever had to face. She remained her own unflinching judge and jury to the end.” (Charlotte Rampling)

“Shakespeare has employed all his superb gifts to tell the picaresque tale of his aunt in occupied France. Priscilla is a femme fatale worthy of fiction, and the author traces her tangled, troubled, romantic and often tragically unromantic experiences through one of the most dreadful periods of 20th century history.” (Max Hastings)

“Extraordinary true story of the author’s aunt. A life of dark secrets, glamour, adventure and adversity during wartime.” (Woman & Home)

“Thrilling.….An intimate family memoir, a story of survival and a quest for biographical truth.” (Tatler)

“Remarkable….A detailed and vivid narrative. This is a moving, and constantly surprising story.” (The Independent)

“A fine book, full of hurried journeys and secret liaisons, by one of Britain’s best writers.” (Conde Nast Traveller)

“A wonderful book….I have not read a better portrait of the moral impossibility of that time and place for people, like Priscilla, who found themselves trapped in it.” (Daily Telegraph)

“A gripping narrative….Shakespeare offers a nuanced and detailed psychological study of the effect of the Second World War on an ordinary woman. The result is just as absorbing as any biography of a war hero.” (London Sunday Times)

“Letters, journals and memories of family and friends are woven seamlessly with accounts of life in occupied Paris to reveal the precarious existence of a British woman in France during World War II….Intriguing.” (Daily Express)

“Gripping….[An] extraordinary voyage into the truth….Priscilla brilliantly exposes the tangled complexities behind that question so easily asked from the comfort of a peacetime armchair: ‘What would I have done?’” (The Observer)

“[A] wonderfully readable quest for answers….[Shakespeare] builds a nuanced, sensitive portrait of this sad and glamorous member of his family….As the life of Priscilla shows, surviving the occupation was too complicated an affair for any black-and-white verdict.” (The Economist)

“A tantalizingly original perspective of the Second World War….In his engaging detective story, as he pieces Priscilla’s war years together, Shakespeare shines a moving, intriguing light on the moral quandaries faces by ordinary citizens.” (London Sunday Times, Best Book of the Year Citation)

“Impossible to put down.” (Mail on Sunday, a Book of the Year Pick)

“An excellently researched, beautifully written and unflinching memoir.” (Evening News, (UK))

“Mesmerising….A tremendous portrait of a world of war that is only ever glimpsed out of the corner of an eye. It is a haunting, powerful book about the gaps in the record and about the terrible abysses that are revealed when they are filled in.” (Sydney Morning Herald)

Présentation de l'éditeur

The astonishing true story of a young woman's adventures, and misadventures, in the dangerous world of Nazi-occupied France.

For Priscilla, pre-war Paris was an exciting carousel of suitors, soirées and heartbreak, and eventually a lavish wedding to a French aristocrat.

But the arrival of the Nazi tanks signalled the end of life as a Vicomtesse, and the beginning of a precarious existence under German Occupation.

Over half a century later, her nephew, Nicholas Shakespeare, found a box of Priscilla's notebooks and journals. He began investigating the rumours that she had escaped a prisoner-of-war camp and fought for the Resistance - and he finally unearthed the truth behind suspicions of disreputable love affairs and far darker secrets.

Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 7917 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 453 pages
  • Editeur : Vintage Digital (7 novembre 2013)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B00DVW8R9A
  • Synthèse vocale : Non activée
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  • Composition améliorée: Activé
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°114.745 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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Amazon.com: 3.7 étoiles sur 5  156 commentaires
84 internautes sur 87 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 The Search is the Story 6 octobre 2013
Par Rita Mayberry - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Isn't it strange that when a novelist writes history, the story somehow becomes more real than the concrete facts? To me that is why "Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France" fascinates. And, while the story of Priscilla is very compelling, what is truly compelling to me is Nicholas Shakespeare's relentless search to ferret out what even the tiniest scrap of evidence from his aunt's past and then sort it out against the grand scope of World War II and life in Nazi-occupied France. It would be easy for him to have reinvented the past to make her a romantic and heroic figure by today's standard, but he did not. Instead he honestly told her story from her sad, sad childhood through her fight to survive by whatever means worked in a world split open by strife to her life's end on a mushroom farm in Sussex. Priscilla was just one of hundreds of women who lived through that period by their wits and then slipped into normal life, holding their secrets close even to the grave. It has taken this many years for much of the reality of that time to come to light, and I am grateful to Nicholas Shakespeare and others like him who take the time to figure out these twisted lives for us. It is only through efforts like those of this writer that generation after generation can look back and say, "Never again.'

This wasn't a comfortable book to read. I found myself backing off from Priscilla as much as I found myself identifying with her.The wasted lives, the creativity used up simply to stay alive by so many people makes me sad. Where would our world be if these talents had been freely used rather than needed simply to stay alive? When I began to meander off into contemplating these things abstractly, the search would bring me back to the story once more. When I finished the book, I found myself looking at my relatives from that period differently. What was it like for them in those years, even those safely sheltered in the United States? Every human being has a story; some are more interesting than others and Priscilla's is amazing.
93 internautes sur 102 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 Family Secret Leaves A Bitter After Taste 31 octobre 2013
Par Kayla Rigney - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I wanted to love this book. I really did. Shakespeare's aunt Priscilla Mais lived an interesting, and in many ways, incredible life. She was an English woman in France during the Nazi occupation of World War Two. Because she was considered an enemy alien, Mais was briefly held in an internment camp in Besançon. The rest of her war years are murky and hidden behind a false name and the equally false memories of France, which has yet to truly come to its own role in the deportation and extermination of French Jews. I chose this book *because* of Priscilla's life during World War Two. I ended up reading about a woman whose war-time choices were right down there with Arletty's and Coco Chanel's. (Her life-long friend, Gillian Sutro, came to believe this, as well.)

It all began with the discovery of a box of diaries and correspondence Priscilla Mais kept hidden all of her adult life... And those papers told the story that Priscilla didn't want revealed in her lifetime.

Priscilla Mais was a gorgeous blue-eyed blonde whose pre-war dancing career was cut short by a severe attack of osteomyelitis. Her father was the famous SBP Mais famous for his work on the BBC and author of 200 books. He and her mother split, but did not divorce. Priscilla went to Paris with her mother and "step-father." (The parents didn't divorce for many reasons -- one of which being that the BBC would have fired SPB.) The adults in Priscilla's life made unethical choices every day; and Priscilla followed in their footsteps. Her best friend Gillian had been having an affair with the artist Vertes since she was sixteen; but there were lines she would not cross.

By the time Priscilla was twenty-one, she'd had an illegal French abortion and married an older, impotent Vicoomte. And then, the Nazis came...

I enjoyed this book until it became clear that Priscilla preferred couture and food over being ethical. She slept with and was kept and helped by numerous married men -- taking the identity of one of her lover's wives for the duration! She lived with a Nazi black marketeer. She stayed in the same building that the actress Arletty did. Priscilla moved in the same circles with well-connected Nazi sympathizers. At the very least, Priscilla was a *tondue* -- a woman who consorted with the Nazis -- and at worst, she just didn't *care.* The extent of Priscilla's collaboration is unknown, but what has come to light ultimately turned her friend Gillian against her memory. Mais was lucky that she was able to return to England and disappear into the anonymous life of a mushroom farmer's wife.

In the end, I didn't like the *woman* who is the subject of this social biography. I believe that Shakespeare means for this story of his enigmatic aunt to be one of redemption lost and found. He came to accept the life she chose to live on her terms. I cannot accept those terms. There are lines that, once crossed, cannot be uncrossed. Some choices we make are so defining that they show the world who we really are.

PS: There are French phrases throughout the book that Shakespeare doesn't translate -- or translates to suit his picture of his aunt. I speak and read French, so this isn't a problem for me. Others might be bothered.
38 internautes sur 39 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 What Did You Do During the War, Auntie? 20 novembre 2013
Par takingadayoff - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Priscilla is the kind of book that makes me wonder why I ever read fiction at all. Here is the true story of a woman who spent World War II in Nazi-occupied France, as a British passport holder and the young wife of a minor French nobleman. How she survived is the subject of the book. Author Nicholas Shakespeare never gave much thought to his aunt's past, and she never said anything about it. But after she died, he found some information about those war years that made him want to investigate further. His research took him to the archives of French, British, and American government records, police departments, friends, surviving family members of friends, libraries, and more.

The story is as much about the hunt for the story as it is about Priscilla's story itself. There's drama and love and death and murder and torture and daring escapes. I found myself alternately sympathizing with and despising Priscilla. When times are tough, and living as an enemy national in Vichy France was undeniably tough for Priscilla, you hope you will rise to the occasion and be heroic, or at least be quietly brave. You hope you don't betray your friends or lose your moral compass. But until it happens to you, you can't know. During war time, many were heroic. And those same people might have been less than heroic the very next day. Lots of people refused to talk about the war after it was over and they returned home. Maybe what they saw was too horrific to talk about. Maybe what they did was too difficult to face.

Priscilla is a heck of a story. It does drag a bit at times, and there were a few detours into subjects that I didn't find as gripping as Nicholas Shakespeare did. But overall, this was better than a novel, with all the relationships and drama, and big questions that you'd find in a novel, but as far as we can know, it really happened.
9 internautes sur 9 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Award-winning writer Nicholas Shakespeare's research uncovers the secret life of his aunt Priscilla 30 décembre 2013
Par [KNDY] Dennis A. Amith - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
For writer Nicholas Shakespeare, author of "The Vision of the Elena Silver", "The High Flyer", "The Dancer Upstairs" and "Inheritance" comes his latest book, "Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France".

A personal book as Priscilla is the sister of Nicholas' mother, an aunt that had captivated the family. Married to a mushroom farmer named Raymond in the Church Farm located in the Sussex coast. Priscilla was known for her beauty but also her sadness.

A painting of Priscilla by artist Marcel Vertes in pre-war Paris hung at the farm, a painting from 1939. But all he knew of his mysterious aunt was that she grew up in Paris, was a ballerina, worked as a model in pre-war Paris and lived in France during the occupation and spent time in a concentration camp.

Also, from his mother, all she knew was that she was captured and tortured by the Germans, couldn't have children because she was raped and caught an infection.

It's also important to mention that Priscilla was the daughter of Stuart Petre Brodie (S.P.B.) Mais, an author but better known for his work with the Oxford Times and BBC broadcaster.

Her past was never disclosed to her current husband nor her children, very little was known by her family. A lot was kept secret about Priscilla's past.

Writer Nicholas Shakespeare one day asked Priscilla's step-daughter Tracey about the mother and hidden away for many years were collected scrapbooks and letters owned by Priscilla that would reveal intimate stories and the shocking life of his Aunt Priscilla.

Nicholas Shakespeare's latest book uncovers his aunt's past, perhaps skeletons that his aunt may have wanted to keep in the closet but also letters and information regarding a dysfunctional family, affairs, sexual trysts and even a personal side that others did not know about.

But what he was able to extract from surviving family members at the time, his research from Priscilla's scrapbook and letters would offer a lot of information.

From Stuart Petre Brodie (S.P.B.) Mais and his relationship with his daughter and how badly he was in debt after his career did not make the transition from radio to television, nor any of his many books raking in a profit.

Actor Robert Donat ("The 39 Steps", "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", The Citadel") and his affair and letters to Priscilla are now unveiled.

It also revealed how Priscilla's mother Doris, who had a relationship with screenwriter D.B.Wyndham-Lewis, screenwriter of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much" and what he tried to do to Priscilla which would make him one of the most hated men in her life.

But perhaps the person that would offer a lot of clues and information to the life of Priscilla was her best friend and confidant, the late Gillian Sutro (wife of British film producer John Sutro, "Cheer the Brave", "49th Parallel", "Carnival"), both who met at a young age and for decades would remain close friends.

But it's Gillian's letters that would offer the most damning information of what happened to Priscilla during the occupation. And it's possibly one of the most hurtful things about Priscilla's past that she did not want her husband to know about and it was the one thing that hurt the late Gillian Sutro later in life.

The life of Priscilla, as others have wrote, would make a fascinating film. But for the book itself, I wonder how Nicholas Shakespeare felt about uncovering these skeletons in Priscilla's closet.

When Shakespeare began his research, beforehand, he thought of Priscilla like Grace Kelly. Beautiful but quite a few things that concerned him about her life, a sadness but also living like a prisoner.

But what he learned about her was a life that was troubled. A life damaged at a young age by parents who seem to not care enough and similar to her mother, had sexual trysts with other men. Many men... married men and also men should not have had anything to do with, as of loyalty to her friends.

The fact that Nicholas Shakespeare was able to uncover so much information and how far he went to attain all the information he can, especially regarding Priscilla and the men she was well-researched.

Priscilla was a woman that had her own personal demons. Behind the photos of a beautiful woman, lies a tormented soul.

"Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France" was a captivating book. The life of Priscilla, especially her association with some well-known people in the entertainment industry and artists are noted in the book. But as Nicholas Shakespeare unpeels layers of Priscilla's childhood, her life during the occupation and then looking into her life later in life and until her death, there is no doubt that despite the darkness or troubles she had faced in life, she also made an impact on people's lives.

Overall, "Priscilla: The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France" is recommended!
11 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
4.0 étoiles sur 5 Unique biography 27 septembre 2013
Par Bob F, measurement guy - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
Both the person about whom the biography is written and the style of development are interesting. The book intersperses the biographer's tale of discovery and the tale of Priscilla herself. At first, I was not certain I would like this book. It begins by focusing on how Nicholas Shakespeare decided to study the life of his aunt.

Once he gets going the focus alternates back and forth between her life and how he found the documentation for the next part.

What makes his discovery process interesting is a tale of the leads and dead ends that had to be retraced in order to get a sense of truth revealed. The woman herself would not be quite so interesting without the backstory. Certainly she had a difficult life. Certainly she was attractive and took advantage of her appearance. Certainly she had a string of lovers. She was also resilient and probably somewhat damaged by her experiences but managed to struggle on.

It's also very interesting to read a sort of personal account of what it meant to survive wartime (WW II) France. The Vichy government and collaboration and conflicts with the various forms of German security. The nepotistic and enabling behavior of both these parties at the expense of the French people.

I'd call this a really interesting read for history buffs because of the research aspect but not as exciting a rendition as good historical fiction.
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