The Paris Children: A Novel of World War 2

Written by Gloria Goldreich
Review by John La Bonne

Madeleine Levy, the granddaughter of Alfred Dreyfus, is the plucky heroine of the fast-paced The Paris Children by Gloria Goldreich. When the Nazis march into Paris in the spring of 1940, Madeleine and her family escape to Toulouse, where she and her lover, Claude Lehman, join the Resistance in rescuing Jewish refugee children and train them to cross the Pyrenees safely into Spain.

As the novel moves swiftly between events that involve Madeleine’s cover as a social worker and her participation in Resistance activities, it never fails to remind us how dangerous and dark the times were. Indeed, much of Madeleine’s and the other characters’ activities take place under the cover of night. Goldreich’s extensive research into the threats faced by ordinary French citizens, let alone those working against the Vichy government and their puppet masters in Germany, is deftly woven into the narrative. One could be snatched off the street and shuttled to a slave labor camp simply on the word of a jealous neighbor.

But if the times were perilous, the characters also found succor in their faith, by which they were duty-bound to help those in need. Madeleine’s dedication to her family and to the children she rescues comes at the price of her relationship with Claude. Because their roles in the Resistance necessitate that they are often apart, their romance is also a victim of the war, forcing them to rely on hope as much as they do on courage.