A female American spy in Nazi-occupied France finds purpose behind enemy lines in a novel of unparalleled danger, love, and daring.
Anna Cavanaugh dreamed of a worthy, adventurous life. Instead, the restless young widow and brilliant linguist teaches French at an all-girls school in Washington, D.C. Everything changes when she’s recruited into the Office of Strategic Services by a family friend and legendary WWI hero.
Major General William Donovan has faith in her–and in all his “glorious amateurs” who are becoming Anna’s fast friends: Maggie, Anna’s down-to-earth mentor; Irene, struggling to find support for her clandestine life from her husband; and Julia, a cheerful OSS liaison. But the more Anna learns about the secret missions, the more she longs to be stationed abroad. Then comes the opportunity: going undercover as a female spy in the French Resistance. Anna’s not only returning to an endangered city she adores, but is also getting a chance to live a life with meaning.
Dispatched behind enemy lines, Anna is filled with adrenaline, passion, and fear, and driven to make a difference–for her country, for the allies, and for herself. Anna’s found her purpose. Whatever the risk, she’s willing to take it to help liberate France from the shadows of oppression, and to free herself from the shadows of her old life.
BOOK CLUB QUESTIONS
- The women in the novel defied common conventions about gender during the 1940s. How do you think the characters’ experiences might have been different if they lived in today’s world? In what ways might their experiences be similar?
- War makes ordinary people do extraordinary things – whether it’s going to great lengths to survive, or sacrificing one’s own life to save others. What impacts does the war have on the characters in the book? How might the characters’ lives unfolded differently had the war not happened?
- Florence Jay Gould was an upper class American who chose a very different path as an ex-patriot in Paris than American Dr. Sumner Jackson, who chose to work with the Resistance. Discuss.
- Who was your favorite character in the novel? Who was your least favorite?
- Did any plot twists completely surprise you?
- If given the opportunity do go overseas as a spy for the OSS, do you think you would do it?
- Did the book give you a better understanding of life under Nazi occupation during World War II?
- Did you realize while reading that Julia McWilliams was the chef Julia Child? If yes, at one point in the story?
- Did any of the author’s notes at the end surprise you? If yes, which one(s)?
INTERVIEW WITH JANE HEALEY
The inspiration came from an article I read about former intelligence agents during WWII. Here are a couple that truly inspired me:
Unlike The Beantown Girls and The Saturday Evening Girls Club, the topics of WWII intelligence and the French Resistance are quite broad. My research therefore was quite extensive. Here’s just one of my bookshelves with some of the research books for The Secret Stealers.
There are a number of key figures of the war I drew inspiration from, or included directly in the book. Here are just a few:
Most of the scenes and the characters are based on real people, places and true events. The cover of book features a stone staircase very similar to the one next to the Passy Metro station in Paris. Several scenes take place on Avenue Foche and the surrounding areas of the 16th arrondissement. The Nazis took over this upscale neighborhood not only to live and have office space, but also to jail and torture agents of La Resistance.
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