Lead Review

  • Book: A Jewish Girl in Paris
  • Location: Paris, Washington DC
  • Author: Melanie Levensohn

Review Author: Tina Hartas



This is a dual timeline novel set during WW2 in Paris and in Washington DC in 2006. The Parisian sections chart the life of Judith, a young Jewish woman living in Paris and focusses on the period of German occupation. She starts to form a relationship with Christian and as the war deepens and the conditions worsen, the two have to find a way through the very turbulent, evil times.

Forward to 2006 and Béatrice is living in the U.S. capitol, working for the World Bank, and has to endure the wrath and bullying of her boss. She is introduced to a charity helping needy seniors and it is thus she gets to know Jacobina, who is the character opening the novel (when she was much younger). She is promising her father (in Montréal 1982), as he lies dying, that she will at some point in the future track down another daughter he had, sired with a woman other than Jacobina’s mother. Jacobina had no knowledge of her step sister until that point, which of course shook her to the core. He has never spoken much about his life, closing down all mention of his deportation to a labour camp during WW2 and all the horrors of that period. Béatrice is a stalwart companion to Jacobina and assists her in trying to trace her step sister, whilst meanwhile trying to manage the pressures in her personal and work life.

Clearly these two stories will marry up at some point.

As the novel opens, the writing style is tentative and quite formal – stilted, at times. It continues in this manner for a while and then clearly the author finds her footing and gets into a very readable rhythm and goes on to pen a good and involving story. By the end, she writes with great confidence and alacrity.

In the Author’s Note at the beginning, she highlights a curious development within her own family. When she took her husband’s surname, Levensohn – she soon discovered that someone within the family, with her exact name, had disappeared at Auschwitz and there were several parallels that prompted the author to start researching her namesake, which in turn prompted her to write the novel.

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