Thursday, July 27, 2023

The Forger of Marseille by Linda Joy Myers

What is it about historical fiction, especially stories about World War II in Europe, that so appeals to us? The Forger of Marseille by Linda Joy Myers offers clues to why we love such novels by telling the captivating tale of a nineteen-year-old Jewish artist who flees from Berlin to Paris in 1938 and then must flee again when the Nazis arrive in Paris. Along with thousands of other refugees, Sarah, now calling herself Simone, endures the harrowing journey through occupied France to Marseille where she becomes part of the resistance. Just when we think there's nothing new to learn about that period, Myers introduces us to the rarely told history of American journalist Varian Fry who arranged the escape of well-known historical figures like Marc Chagall and Andre Breton and to Church of Scotland minister Donald Caskie who helped close to 500 Allied service personnel flee France.

Sarah had fallen in love with César, a former doctor, whose time fighting the fascists in Spain had led him to work in the underground in Paris while fighting the demons of his previous life. Sarah had used her artistry to become a master forger in Paris where she created new papers for those in need. When she, César, and Mr. Lieb, the family friend and violin maker extraordinaire, who acts as a father figure to her, arrive in Marseilles, the Gestapo is on their trail, but they still feel compelled to risk their lives to help others gain safety. 

Using Sarah/Simone’s artistic abilities so ingeniously to create documents that fool the Nazis sets this novel apart from others that simply share the facts. The love story between César and Sarah also makes the novel sing and makes the reader care about them both. Author Myers is a therapist who has researched and worked with intergenerational trauma and it shows in her caring treatment of César and his experiences in Franco’s Spain and of the characters who fled the Nazis repeatedly.

Summing it Up: We can only eradicate injustice if we pay attention to how it was able to succeed in history. Novels like The Forger of Marseille show us the complicity of France in betraying its countrymen and enabling the Nazis to consolidate power. Read this novel to enter the compelling world of a young Jewish artist and her Spanish boyfriend who risk everything to help others escape and prove that each of us has something to offer to combat evil. Devour it to follow the arduous journeys many made through the Pyrenees to escape and to feel the gusting winds, the crevices, the rocky switchbacks, and the slippery stones of the steep trek toward the Spanish border. Myers doesn't simply report history, she makes it come alive. 

An article you must read to understand the inspiration for the novel:

Rating: 4 Stars 

Publication Date: July 11, 2023

Category: Fiction, Grandma’s Pot Roast, Pigeon Pie, Super Nutrition, Book Club

Author Website: 

What Others are Saying: 

Publishers Weekly:

“In this carefully researched and crafted novel, The Forger of Marseilles, Linda Joy Myers tells the story of resistance by those who risked their lives to save others—one of the few bright spots in the Holocaust. While accurately portraying what went on in France in 1940, Myers weaves elements of love, tension, art, music, and the gradual unfolding of her characters as they begin to trust one another. Myers draws the reader in with her descriptive prose and insight into what individuals endured during that horrific time.”

—Merle R. Saferstein, retired Director of Educational Outreach at the Holocaust Documentation and Education Center in South Florida

“This well-paced story of an artist turned forger in WWII era France weaves fictional characters with real-life people in a novel of gripping authenticity.” —Barbara Stark Nemon, award-winning author if Even in Darkness and Hard Cider

“Myers movingly conveys the traumas faced by her Jewish characters who flee Nazi Germany only to find themselves caught up in the turmoil of the 1940 Paris exodus and the early months of the occupation of France. Their involvement in Marseille’s growing resistance movement highlights the crucial work of Varian Fry and Donald Caskie, who aided the escape of countless individuals pursued by the authorities. In this gripping story of a tumultuous period of history, Myers offers us a vivid and compelling read.” 

—Hanna Diamond, author of Fleeing Hitler and professor of French History at Cardiff University