Review: Escape from Paris

Escape from Paris:  A True Story of Love and Resistance in Wartime France

by Stephen Harding

Da Capo, 2019. Hardcover, 288 pages.Cover: Escape from Paris

Escape from Paris is advertised as the story of several B-17 crews shot down over France about a year before D-Day.  Many of the men were rescued by French civilians and sent on an escape route out of the country. This took the men to the Hôtel des Invalides, a complex in Paris that formerly served as French military offices, a hospital, and memorials and now serving as a Nazi office space.  They were helped by the Morin family, who lived and worked in the complex for decades. The Morins, Georges, Denise, and their daughter Yvette, used their keys and vast knowledge of the complex to keep the men hidden right under the German noses.

Much of this story focused on Joe Cornwall, a waist gunner of one of the B-17s.  His background and training are intermixed within the beginning of the book’s focus on training B-17 crews and Morin family background.  Joe had multiple aborted “home runs” back to his base in England, but each time something went wrong and he returned to the Morin’s home.  During that time, he had a growing attachment with Yvette.

While this story is sure to intrigue those with little knowledge of World War II, those with more expansive knowledge will be disappointed.  The book spends a great deal of time setting up the story by telling how the Morins came to the Invalides, the early days of the war in Paris, and the B-17 crew’s training and early missions.  This left little time for the advertised story of the escape to play out and what did in a hundred or so pages felt rushed and incomplete. I felt like I skimmed more than I read since I had that core knowledge.  Still this “pop history” title will appeal to some, especially since it is grounded in interviews with several profiled and numerous historical documents. I had thought this would have been a book I would have enjoyed, but the focus on the events leading up to the advertised story derailed the focus of the book for me.

For those wanting more depth on this topic, try Peter Eisner’s Freedom Line, Ronald C. Rosbottom’s When Paris Went Dark, and Gerlad Astor’s The Mighty Eighth.  Taken together these much longer books provided more information on the escape lines, living in occupied Paris, and how the bomber crews worked.

Thanks to NetGalley for the eARC I reviewed.  This book will be released tomorrow, 10/8/19.


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