Before reading Avenue of Spies, I had never heard of the author, Alex Kershaw. Now that I’ve finished this book, I will definitely be checking into his other books. Avenue of Spies is one of the better WWII true life accounts that I’ve read. Of course, I am a pretty big fan of WWII books altogether. However, there were a few reasons why I consider this book to be one of the better reads.
First of all, the book centers around a little-known couple (the American Dr. Sumner Jackson and his French wife Charlotte Sylvie Barrelet de Ricou, “Toquette”), and their son Phillip, who made their home on the Avenue Foch in 1940s Paris, France. As the Nazis invade, the Jackson family decides to stay in Paris, forfeiting any remaining chance to escape back to America with their fellow compatriots, and secretly help the Allies wherever possible. Their gesture of bravery is heightened all the more by the fact that their street is the headquarters of the Gestapo… complete with a complex of interrogation and torture centers, and crawling with enemy spies. And I do love a good spy story. To avoid spoilers, I’ll say no more.
Second, although the book contains an account of the Jacksons’ and others’ experiences in Nazi concentration camps, it does not go into the level of gory detail that many similar books do. Basic torture techniques are mentioned (i.e. beatings, removal of fingernails, food and water deprivation), and worse things are hinted at, but not described. I really appreciated this fact, since the point of the book was not to describe a lot of horror, but to tell the story of a brave family who did what was right in the face of extreme evil and inhumanity.
Third, the author does an excellent job of detailing the disintegration of power within the ranks of the Nazi party as the final days of the Reich drew to an end. There’s a clear message for thoughtful readers on the folly of desiring and pursuing the power and luxury of evil men by aiding them in their evil.
Lastly, this book is just the right length for a two-day read (if you’re a fast reader like me). It’s a good one-week read for a slower (or busier) reader.
Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging For Books program in exchange for this review.