Thursday, October 13, 2016

Avenue of Spies by Alex Kershaw (WWII Non-Fiction Biography & Memoir)

ISBN13: 9780804140058
History - Europe - Western
$16 paperback
About the book: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris

The best-selling author of The Liberator brings to life the incredible true story of an American doctor in Paris, and his heroic espionage efforts during World War II

The leafy Avenue Foch, one of the most exclusive residential streets in Nazi-occupied France, was Paris's hotbed of daring spies, murderous secret police, amoral informers, and Vichy collaborators. So when American physician Sumner Jackson, who lived with his wife and young son Phillip at Number 11, found himself drawn into the Liberation network of the French resistance, he knew the stakes were impossibly high. Just down the road at Number 31 was the "mad sadist" Theodor Dannecker, an Eichmann protégé charged with deporting French Jews to concentration camps. And Number 84 housed the Parisian headquarters of the Gestapo, run by the most effective spy hunter in Nazi Germany.

From his office at the American Hospital, itself an epicenter of Allied and Axis intrigue, Jackson smuggled fallen Allied fighter pilots safely out of France, a job complicated by the hospital director's close ties to collaborationist Vichy. After witnessing the brutal round-up of his Jewish friends, Jackson invited Liberation to officially operate out of his home at Number 11--but the noose soon began to tighten. When his secret life was discovered by his Nazi neighbors, he and his family were forced to undertake  a journey into the dark heart of the war-torn continent from which there was little chance of return.

Drawing upon a wealth of primary source material and extensive interviews with Phillip Jackson, Alex Kershaw recreates the City of Light during its darkest days. The untold story of the Jackson family anchors the suspenseful narrative, and Kershaw dazzles readers with the vivid immediacy of the best spy thrillers. Awash with the tense atmosphere of World War II's Europe, Avenue of Spies introduces us to the brave doctor who risked everything to defy Hitler.

My thoughts: We all need to read books like this about the people, places, events, and horrors that were the meat and potatoes of World War II. - even if biographical reads are not our "thing" nor historical non-fiction what we long to delve into. And even if the book is written in such a manner that it primarily bores us stiff. We need to read the stories. We need to acquaint ourselves with what happened to millions of people. We need to know the depth to which humanity can plunge and the height to which the human spirit can soar.

Avenue of Spies sounded intriguing to me. I am a bit of a history buff so reading about the events of World War II wasn't much of a stretch for me to reach for the book and get started. But the story, while a relatively thin book, was a slow read. A tedious read. And frankly quite hard to grasp at the start. But about midway through, my interest began to latch hold and the story of Dr. Jackson and his wife and son captured my attention and left my heart weeping.

Dr. Jackson was an American practicing medicine in Paris. His European wife was happiest on her own turf, so he happily resettled. Having been a doctor on the front lines of World War I, he easily transitioned from private practise to war injuries when the war came to Paris. Living and having his medical headquarters on the fashionable Avenue Foch with the most feared of German soldiers encamped as his neighbors did not deter him from pursing clandestine activities.

The cost to him and his family was dear as this memoir brings out. Horrific circumstances and heroic personalities. We don't want to repeat World War II, so read and learn from history.

I received a complimentary copy from Blogging For Books reviewers program. Opinions are solely my own.

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