Priscilla: Book summary and reviews of Priscilla by Nicholas Shakespeare

Priscilla

The Hidden Life of an Englishwoman in Wartime France

By Nicholas Shakespeare

Priscilla
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  • Published in USA  Jan 2014,
    448 pages.

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Book Summary

When Nicholas Shakespeare stumbled across a trunk full of his late aunt's personal belongings, he was unaware of where this discovery would take him and what he would learn about her hidden past. The glamorous, mysterious figure he remembered from his childhood was very different from the morally ambiguous young woman who emerged from the trove of love letters, journals and photographs, surrounded by suitors and living the precarious existence of a British citizen in a country controlled by the enemy during World War II.

As a young boy, Shakespeare had always believed that his aunt was a member of the Resistance and had been tortured by the Germans. The truth turned out to be far more complicated. 

Piecing together fragments of his aunt's remarkable and tragic story, Priscilla is at once a stunning story of detection, a loving portrait of a flawed woman trying to survive in terrible times, and a spellbinding slice of history.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A somewhat disjointed story that nonetheless successfully recounts how one woman dealt with her dysfunctional life." - Kirkus

"Thrilling." - Tatler (UK)

"Fascinating." - The Independent (UK)

"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

"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

"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

"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

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Nicholas Shakespeare was born in 1957. His novels have been translated into twenty languages. They include The Vision of Elena Silves, winner of the Somerset Maugham Award, and The Dancer Upstairs, which was chosen by the American Library Association in 1997 as the year's best novel, and in 2001 was made into a film of the same name by John Malkovich. Bruce Chatwin, Shakespeare's biography of the British novelist, was published in 2000 to widespread critical acclaim. Shakespeare is married with two sons and currently lives in Oxford.

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