The Race for Paris

Written by Meg Waite Clayton
Review by Helene Williams

There’s nothing new about journalists and photographers reporting from war zones. On Europe’s battlefronts during World War II, however, the tradition of suave, self-assured, cigarette-smoking men reporters was in upheaval, as they were joined by a few talented and adventurous women eager to provide the first news of the action as it unfolded. Clayton’s gripping tale was inspired by the women writers and photographers who broke through bureaucratic and gender barriers to report from the front lines, such as Martha Gellhorn, Margaret Bourke-White, and Catherine Coyne.

The story is narrated by Jane Tyler, a young reporter from Nashville, who is fighting to break away from her own past. She teams up with photographer Liv Harper, wife of the editor of The New York Daily Press, when Liv goes AWOL in her passion to be among the first journalists on the scene as Paris is liberated in August of 1944. Liv runs into old friend and fellow photographer, Fletcher Roebuck, who reluctantly agrees to drive them on the route the military is taking, putting both women perilously close to active battle.

There’s danger, secrets, and romance in the story, along with the underlying deep need of Jane, Liv, and Fletcher, to portray the truth about the war: the empty gaze of children who have known only pain and battle; the courage of doctors and nurses to operate and tend to patients in the midst of shelling and raids; the fear of the soldiers on all sides. The narrative is framed by the opening of an exhibit of Liv’s work, 50 years later in 1994, which allows the reader to make valuable connections between the past and near-present. It also serves as a gentle farewell to the well-drawn characters for whom this reader grew to care very much.