The Room on Rue Amelie

Written by Kristin Harmel
Review by Gini Grossenbacher

After American Ruby Henderson marries Frenchman Marcel Benoit, they settle in Paris in 1939. Instead of newlywed bliss, they face Nazi invasion and occupation. Their neighbors on Rue Amélie are a Jewish family, the Dachers, whose daughter Charlotte befriends Ruby. Marcel, active in the French Resistance, rescues downed British fighter pilots and helps them escape through Spain. When Marcel is killed, Ruby takes his place on the line, sheltering downed pilots in a closet in their apartment. The Nazis become more merciless in their quest to find such resistors, and the threat of Jewish roundups frightens Charlotte and her family. Amid such tension, Ruby shelters British pilot Thomas Clarke, tending his wounds as they wait for news of his escape route. Ruby and Thomas begin to fall for one another, despite the hopelessness of wartime. Charlotte starts to suspect that Ruby is working with the resistance, which could jeopardize them all.

This novel grew on me with its probing examination of human behavior in the face of the Nazi occupation. The author’s sprinkling of historical detail throughout reflects her devotion to historical research. As each episode unfolds, the reader faces everyday people willing to risk their lives to help others. Indeed, as Ruby hides Charlotte after her parents are deported, we fear the Nazis could find out and shoot her. When Ruby delivers the news to Charlotte that her parents have been arrested by the Germans, she says, “But there is no French anymore. There are just Jews, those who hate us, and people who are too scared for their own lives to fight back. But there are also people like you and me, Charlotte, people who are doing what they can to help. We’ll win in the end.” Highly recommended.