The Postmistress of Paris

Written by Meg Waite Clayton
Review by Rebecca Kightlinger

“That was something she’d learned early: when to draw attention to herself and when to avoid it. Evanston rules.”

Paris, 1938. A decade into her exile from society in Evanston, Illinois, heiress, pilot, and expat Nanée lands her Vega Gull and sweeps into the Galerie des Beaux-Arts wearing her flight jacket and white silk scarf over a black Chanel dress—Aero-Chanel she calls the look—drawing the attention and interest of Jewish photojournalist Edouard Moss: father, recent widower, and refugee from Nazi Germany. Moss’s most intimate photograph, Salvation, attracts and interests Nanée. As does the artist himself.

Marseilles, 1939. Hitler’s growing list of enemies—writers, artists, and journalists—now includes Moss, who is living with his young daughter, Luki, in Provence. When he realizes they must flee, he engages a friend to accompany Luki on a separate train; they will meet in Paris. But en route, Moss is arrested and incarcerated.

Nanée now works for the Resistance as “postmistress,” covertly delivering coded messages and forged documents to sequestered refugees attempting to flee France. When she learns that Moss has been taken, she draws on the Evanston rules: first attracting the attention of a commandant and securing Moss’s release papers, and then passing unnoticed as she searches for Luki. Her plan? To reunite father and daughter and smuggle them to freedom even as all avenues of escape are closing.

Inspired by the life-story of American heiress Mary Jayne Gold, this fast-moving narrative slips seamlessly between locations, characters, and subplots. With its breathtaking turns, back-street meets, and an intensifying attraction between Nanée and Moss, Meg Waite Clayton’s tale portrays a quiet woman who, fueled by courage and dedication, chooses to risk her life breaking laws rather than save it by returning home to a stifling society life governed by Evanston rules. Recommended.