Paris, 1919: The world's leaders have gathered to rebuild from the ashes of the Great War. But for one woman, the City of Light harbors dark secrets and dangerous liaisons, for which many could pay dearly.
Brought to the peace conference by her father, a German diplomat, Margot Rosenthal initially resents being trapped in the congested French capital, where she is still looked upon as the enemy. But as she contemplates returning to Berlin and a life with Stefan, the wounded fiancé she hardly knows anymore, she decides that being in Paris is not so bad after all.
Bored and torn between duty and the desire to be free, Margot strikes up unlikely alliances: with Krysia, an accomplished musician with radical acquaintances and a secret to protect; and with Georg, the handsome, damaged naval officer who gives Margot a job - and also a reason to question everything she thought she knew about where her true loyalties should lie.
Against the backdrop of one of the most significant events of the century, a delicate web of lies obscures the line between the casualties of war and of the heart, making trust a luxury that no one can afford.
Interesting that this book is listed as Book 0 in 'The Kommondant's Girl' series. All of the previous books by the author have been set in World War II while this one is set in Paris and Berlin in 1919. Why the change in the timeline?
This book starts off with the protagonist and her father living in Paris where the father is working on the German side of the treaty ending World War I. They had lived in England during the war as the father was somehow able to avoid the war. It was an interesting time, the European allies were mad at Germany and wanted to stick it to them, the Americans wanted a peace that allowed Germany a change to recover while the Communists were about. The protagonist is a Jewish German, 20 years old, trying tfind her way in the world. When the European countries have their way in the treaty the wheels are set in motion for World War II by dictating terms that would never allow Germany to get backs on its feet. Father and daughter are caught up in this and after the disastrous treaty end up moving back to Berlin. It's a true coming of age story where the girl decides to stand on her own two feet.
One thing about this story different from the others Jenoff books I've listened to is the Jewish issue. The seeds of the issue that became disastrous in WWII are here but the Jewish issue is never at the forefront of the book as it is in the others. But the author leaves the story such that other books could be written with the issue coming out as time moves forward toward to the war.
I've wondered in listening to Jenoff's books where she came up with the ideas for her books? In doing some background work, it turns out Jenoff grew up in New Jersey, went to undergrad at George Washington Univ. in Washington DC, and got a Masters at Cambridge in the UK. She then became a Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Army working at the Pentagon then switched to the State Department and was posted to Krakow, Poland. In Poland, among other things, she worked on restoring Auschwitz and other camps built during the war. Through this process she met many Poles that had survived the war and told her their stories of the war. It is these memories that are at the core of her plots and characters. She left the State Department, went to Penn Law School and started working at a law firm. While practicing law she started writing from 5-7 every morning and eventually left law to write fulltime and have a family..