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Posts Tagged ‘paris’

The Girl in the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason: A Reader’s Guide

Friday, May 18th, 2012

Mason_Girl in the Blue BeretBehind the Book

My father-in-law was a pilot. During World War II, he was shot down in a B-17 over Belgium. With the help of the French Resistance, he made his way through Occupied France and back to his base in England. Ordinary citizens hid him in their homes, fed him, disguised him, and sheltered him from the Germans. Many families willingly hid Allied aviators, knowing the risks: They would have been shot or sent to a concentration camp if they were dis- covered by the Germans.

In 1987 the town in Belgium honored the crew by erecting a memorial at the crash site, where one of the ten crew members died. The surviving crew was invited for three days of festivities, including a ?yover by the Belgian Air Force. More than three thousand Allied airmen were rescued during the war, and an extraordinarily deep bond between them and their European helpers endures even now.

My father-in-law, Barney Rawlings, spent a couple of months hiding out in France in 1944, frantically memorizing a few French words to pass himself off as a Frenchman, but his ordeal had not inspired in me any ?ction until I started taking a French class. Suddenly, the language was transporting me back in time and across the ocean, as I tried to imagine a tall, out-of-place American struggling to say Bonjour. Barney had a vague memory of a girl who had escorted him in Paris in 1944. He remembered that her signal was something blue—a scarf, maybe, or a beret. The notion of a girl in a blue beret seized me, and I was off.
I had my title, but I didn’t know what my story would be. I had to go to France to imagine the country in wartime. What would I have done in such circumstances of fear, deprivation, and uncertainty? What if my pilot character returns decades later to search for the people who had helped him escape?

Writing a novel about World War II and the French Resistance was a challenge both sobering and thrilling. I read many riveting escape-and-evade accounts of airmen and of the Resistance networks organized to hide them and then send them on grueling treks across the Pyrenees to safety. But it was the people I met in France and Belgium who made the period come alive for me. They had lived it.

In Belgium, I was entertained lavishly by the people who had honored the B-17 crew with the memorial, including by some of the locals who had witnessed the crash landing. I was overwhelmed by their generosity. They welcomed me with an extravagant three- cheek kiss, but one ninety-year-old man, Fernand Fontesse, who had been in the Resistance and had been a POW, planted his kiss squarely on my lips.

In a small town north of Paris I met Jean Hallade. He had been only ?fteen when Second Lieutenant Rawlings was hidden in a nearby house. Jean took a picture of Barney in a French beret, a photo to be used for the fake ID card he would need as he traveled through France over the next few months, disguised as a French cabinetmaker.

And in Paris I became friends with lovely, indomitable Michèle Agniel, who had been a girl guide in the Resistance. Her family aided ?fty Allied aviators, including Barney Rawlings. She takes her scrapbooks from the war years to schools to show children what once happened. “This happened here,” she says. “Here is a ration card. This is a swastika.” She pauses. “Never again,” she says. The characters in The Girl in the Blue Beret are not portraits of actual people, but the situations were inspired by very real individuals whom I regard as heroes.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. Discuss the special bond between Allied aviators and their European helpers. Why did it take so long for many of them to reunite after the war?

2. What does ?ying mean to Marshall? Discuss Marshall’s failed B-17 mission and the effect it had on his life. (more…)

Escape to Paris for a day: win a copy of Ellen Sussman’s novel French Lessons

Thursday, June 9th, 2011

FrenchLessonsThe perfect read for summer!

**This giveaway is now closed. Thanks to all who entered!**

“Elegant and evocative…Sussman has created wonderful characters who take us through the city as they discover hidden places, including those in their own hearts.” –Luanne Rice

“As inviting as the smell of freshly baked croissants wafting from a Parisian café, this is a novel to savor.”—Ann Packer, author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier

A single day in Paris changes the lives of three Americans as they each set off to explore the city with a French tutor, learning not just about language but also about love and loss as their lives intersect in surprising ways.

Please enter your information in the fields below. (While supplies last. Winners will be chosen randomly. We regret we can send books to U.S. addresses only.)

Win a Trip for Two to Paris!

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011

The Paris Wife

“I wished I had died before I ever loved anyone but her.” –Ernest Hemingway

A deeply evocative story of ambition and betrayal, Paula McLain’s stunning novel The Paris Wife captures a remarkable period of time and an extraordinary love affair between two unforgettable people: Ernest Hemingway and his wife Hadley. Set during the same period as Ernest Hemingway’s A Moveable Feast and The Sun Also Rises, Paula McLain’s The Paris Wife brilliantly captures the voice and heart of Hadley Hemingway as she struggles with her roles as a woman—wife, lover, muse, friend, and mother—and tries to find her place in the intoxicating and tumultuous world of Paris in the twenties.

After you read The Paris Wife you will want nothing more than to experience the streets of Paris yourself. And now you can win a round trip vacation! Enter now for your chance to win the Grand prize: a week long trip for two (2) to Paris including airfare, hotel and transportation to and from the Airport, and a copy of the book The Paris Wife. 10 runner-up winners will receive a copy of book The Paris Wife.  Click here to learn more!

Watch a video interview with Paula McLain!

Read an excerpt from The Paris Wife

Check out the Reader’s Guide, as well as some Hemingway inspired cocktail and food recipes!

Think your book club would be interested in a Hemingway tour? If so click here to learn more.

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