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Charlotte Gray

by Sebastian Faulks

Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks X
Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks
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  • First Published:
    Feb 1999, 339 pages
    Jul 2000, 255 pages

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Holly Wrightson

Charlotte Gray
This is a brilliant and disturbing book. Charlotte is a strong, intelligent and convincing heroine, and Faulk's writing style remains refreshingly realistic, even when he is dealing with sentimental scenes. Faulk's description of the Holocaust is unflinching and harrowing; it will haunt you even after you've finished reading. I read this entire book in the space of two days - the plot is highly captivating. This is the kind of novel that I am always trying to force friends and family to read - I can definitely recommend it!

An excellent window into history and characters
I found the novel "Charlotte Gray" a truly impressive rendering of the lives of specific individuals during the Second World War in France. All of the characters were vivid, and Faulks delved into the personality and motivations of each one. Charlotte is a young Scottish woman living in blacked-out London when she makes the acquaintance of Richard Cannerley, who hints that with her knowledge of the French language and her passion of France, she would make a good agent or courier. In London, she also meets Peter Gregory, a young RAF pilot who has grown weary of the war, and embarks on a passionate love affair with him. When Gregory's plane is lost somewhere over France, Charlotte decides to become an agent in France in the hopes of being able to find and rescue Gregory. Once in France, Charlotte becomes caught up in the resistance movement taking place there, and she decides to stay on to become an active member against the Nazi occupation. In France, she meets a number of compelling characters, including Julien Levade, a young resistance fighter with whom she works closely, and M. Levade, Julien's father. This novel neatly ties together the events and impact of the war in France, while also exploring the characters involved. It is difficult to find fault with it, though in the end I couldn't help but wish Charlotte had given her love to a different character with whom I thought she had better chemistry. Nevertheless, "Charlotte Gray" is a novel I highly recommend.

I liked Charlotte Gray because of the realism that the author brings to the conditions that the conflicts and characters go through in the novel. The characters are many-sided and they let you know not only their likeable traits, but also the ones that are not so ideal. They are described in an original way by their views on the many-faceted political problems of the time when the story is set. Everyone has an opinion even if it is one of strong indifference. Sometimes their loyalties change, which gives us an even clearer view of what the person must be thinking because we can see the similarities that this person betrays in both situations. The author shows us by the extent of which we know the people in this book that a person's character shines through particualrly strongly in times of trouble. We as readers can understand what people may be thinking, even if we do not agree with their views. The inhumanity of society is exposed when we learn the motives of each character. It brings us closer to mankind and boldens the unnessesarity of the tradgedies that took place in World War II. This draws you in so that you are caught up in the emotions of the characters as they struggle to save the ones they love, themselves, and their country.

I loved this book and learned a lot about France during the war. Whatever happened at the end though? I can understand the idea of a parallel with the boys- ie going through a door to their fate-death for the boys and a life together for Charlotte and Gregory. It seems a weird parallel though and not really very parallel at all come to that. Or have I got this wrong. Can someone enlighten me?

An excellent book, that captures reader's attention in every possible way. Very descriptive, and intriging.
William Santiago

Captivating but Unsatisfying
Alexandra, above, has the right idea about this book: there's less to it than meets the eye. For example:

o Main character is always portrayed as a marvelous, determined woman--everybody says so--yet she spends a lot of time not doing very much. Even her internal reflections fail to grow, change or mature--they are simply repeated. So this book fails as a study in character.

o Main character's disobedience of military orders--and then being let off the hook for it and praised instead --simply isn't credible.

o We are teased throughout the book about the main character's past and relationship with her father. We are told that her main love interest is helping her get on the right track. But author provides no grounding in the lover's actions or background to give us any hint why this should be so. So this book fails as a love story, IMHO. The lover isn't completely dropped--but might as well have been. The novel would be 10x better if this loop were closed or at least had some verisimilitude

o Main character takes several risks that seem stupid for a trained an underground resistance fighter. Several should have gotten her captured and shot (as many in her position actually were). So the tension seems popping along. In these risks seem to be nothing more than a tool to keep the novel going. So this novel fails to meet a reasonably high standard as an adventure story.

o Main character spends time seeking her lost lover at great risk, then inexplicably gives it up.

This novel creates great tension and is an exciting read (or listen) but is ultimately incoherent. That's not to say a novel needs a tidy ending or even a tidy plot, but it would be nice of some of the hinted character threads led to something to think about. The best part of the book is the thoughtful exploration of what it is like to live under a government which has bartered its soul to the devil. Faust is about a single individual who does this. What happens when your government does it?

I really wanted to like this book. However, the more I reflect on it the less coherent or deep it seems.

An awful read - I'm struggling to write anything positive about it!
I am currently studying A2 English Literature, and as our first piece of coursework this year we must compare Charlotte Gray and Captain Corelli's Mandolin. I'm actually struggling to say anything positive about either book!
Charlotte Gray was a difficult read for me, and I really wouldn't recommend it to anyone. The characters are poorly developed, as the "heroine" of the story, Charlotte, tends to spend little time acting upon everything, and every other line appears to be her own evaluation of her emotions - it almost reminds me of a poor actor who tends to overact everything. Her love for Gregory is entirely unrealistic - their time together is short to say the least, she becomes intent on finding him, and then this particular part of the "plot" just seems to dissolve.
Faulks just seems to throw the Holocaust in at the last minute, as though he has also realised what a waste of time this book is, and he wanted to add something legitimate to it - the Holocaust, one of the most horrific and disgusting events of our time, cannot possibly be thrown into a book as some extra material because the rest isn't quite good enough - the concept is just ridiculous!
If, like myself, you are remotely interested in politics, the political aspects of Charlotte Gray, the insight into a country which has essentially been run on lies since WWII, might appeal to you, but I really wouldn't expect much from this awful mish-mash of ideas, characters and emotion.
Olly J d

Oh Dear
Sebastian Faulks imagines himself one of the great British autors of the twentieth century. He is not. There are lines so bad in this book I had to read them out loud to myself to appreciate their awfulness. The plot is non-existant. Charlotte goes to France to find her missing love, yet she never even looks ..... [review edited to remove plot spoilers} ..... Little depth, no character, no plot, no anything really.
Oh, but he did throw in something about the Holocaust, so it must be a harrowing and poignant read after all......
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