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Charlotte Gray

(French Trilogy #3)

3.81  ·  Rating details ·  10,366 ratings  ·  550 reviews
Librarian's Note: this is an alternate cover edition - ISBN 13: 9780099394310

In 1942, Charlotte Gray, a young Scottish woman, goes to Occupied France on a dual mission - officially, to run an apparently simple errand for a British special operations group and unofficially, to search for her lover, an English airman who has gone missing in action.

As the people in the small
Paperback, 497 pages
Published 1999 by Vintage (first published 1998)
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Marc She was in need of a shoulder to cry on as well as a rock to hang on to. He is a formidable character with a strong sense of purpose, a purpose to whi…moreShe was in need of a shoulder to cry on as well as a rock to hang on to. He is a formidable character with a strong sense of purpose, a purpose to which Charlotte adds strength and determination. Their relationship is called “friendship” although there is a sexual tension between them, a tension that inevitably overcomes her initial desire to be faithful to Peter no matter what. She realises that fidelity is an absolute, and like honour can’t be anything but all or nothing: she knows she has broken that faith as completely as if she’d slept with all the men at the drop off that night. But that happens in war. She felt the shame, but there were more important things to focus on as events took a turn for the worse as the anti Jewish programme intensified and she was singled out by the collaborating school teacher and propositioned, coerced into a sexual “friendship” with him.
Julien sees that Charlotte is in love with an airman whom she is striving to save or at least find, and while loving her is aware that she is out of his reach. Essentially their sexual relationship is war sex, brought on by circumstance and coincidence in the face of extreme danger and tiredness. (less)

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Average rating 3.81  · 
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Violet wells
Bewildered this has such a decent rating. Perhaps everyone forgot how heavy-handed, sloppy, rambling and sometimes absurd this was until about page 300 when it does markedly get better. But it irritated me with its patronising subtext of female subservience to romantic imperatives. As if all those female SOE agents went to France principally for an amorous fling. And often the research was mopped over the surface with the subtlety of an industrial detergent.
If you strip this novel down to its central storyline it’s about a young woman who goes to France primarily to find her airman boyfriend who’s missing in action. In France she gets amorously involved with another man. She contributes nothing to the war effort. She’s not even in touch with London. In other words you could say it’s hugely disrespectful to the enormous bravery and dedication of the real female SOE agents who certainly didn’t go to France for amorous reasons.
These agents all belong
Apr 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though I greatly enjoyed the majority of this ‘British lass battles the Nazis in France’ novel, I have to say that – after turning the final page – I’m somewhat disappointed. It’s a really good book and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone who wanted an incredibly well written tale of recent history. But still, it’s far from perfect and I’ll confess that, as I was working my way into it over the first hundred pages or so, there were moments when I was tempted to just hurl it agains ...more
Algernon (Darth Anyan)

'It's not you, it's me!' : the classic break-up phrase is an apt resolution marking my falling out of enchantment with what is called 'The French Trilogy'. I had an easy time giving praise to The Girl of the Lion d'Or and I have rated Songbird a masterpiece - one of the best literary accounts of the Great War. In trying to pin down what didn't work this time, I'm reminded how much what I'm writing here is a matter of personal opinion, and not an attempt at objective literary citicism.

Jessica Ariwa
I had mixed feelings about this book. It shares many similarities with Birdsong, lovers, war, etc etc. The language is gorgeous, Faulks writes in a way that really engages the you. You feel as though you really know Charlotte, you almost feel what she feels. For me it felt as if all that was missing from this novel was a good story. For huge sections of the novel nothing happens at all. Faulks has seemed to have just focused on the travelling between places and writing out many conversations in ...more
Charlotte Gray broadcasts an exceptionally distorted definition of courage, depicting a young woman endangering her life only to pursue a specious personal agenda. She contributes nothing to the resistance or war effort, and her only motivation is a man. Unsurprisingly, Charlotte Gray has just about as much agency to rival that of a warm, limp lettuce leaf. The novel is a grim mockery of the dedication and fierce bravery of the SOE girls, exploiting a very real and turbulent episode in European ...more
Pam Baddeley
Jul 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
An interesting take on WWII from the point of view of agents who went into France to help the Resistance, but also a slightly odd romance novel. Charlotte Gray, the main character, is a Scottish girl who comes to London in 1942 to do 'something for the war effort' and almost by accident falls into working for a fictionalised version of Special Operations Executive (SOE). At the same time, she becomes obsessed with a daring airman, Peter Gregory, who also ends up flying missions for the same depa ...more
Elizabeth (Alaska)
I found myself comparing this to other war titles by this author. In both Birdsong and Where My Heart Used to Beat there were two timelines. The look back at the war experience was an essential part of those novels. This is a WWII novel, told entirely during war time. Yes, there were two characters who had participated in The Great War, but there were only a few paragraphs telling how that war had wounded them, primarily psychologically.

This involved civilian participation in the war. Important
Mar 19, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I thought that I would love this book. The plot sounded wonderful. Just the sort of thing that I would normally like. It takes place in WWII, in France, with a Scottish girl playing spy in a little village. But once her duties are over, she decided to stay in the village to try and seek out information about her lost lover, an English pilot who is MIA somewhere in France.

But something about the book just didn't click with me.

Charlotte's character seemed remote and rather boring. I didn't find
Feb 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
History is written by the victors and but between 1939-45 thanks to fluctuating fortunes France saw its recent history being rewritten, again and again, as she experienced, in turn, Conquest, Occupation, Collaboration, Resistance, Liberation and bloody Aftermath, involving a hostile and savage Reckoning. It is impossible to approach any story set in WW2 without knowing the outcome but Sebastian Faulks succeeds in setting his tense and absorbing story against a backdrop of a dejected and defeated ...more
Feb 08, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2013
This is an interesting novel, but, in retrospect, I feel that it didn't have quite enough of a plot to justify the length of it. I'd have to say that it's a psychological novel that takes an awful long time to explore the psychology if its main protagonist and reach its resolution. The incident of the Nazis and the Jews felt almost tacked on afterwards. It didn't really fit in with the rest of the book, somehow. The cover blurb describes this novel as 'harrowing' and I read almost the entire boo ...more
Feb 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Having recently read and admired 'Birdsong' by Sebastian Faulks, I was keen to read Charlotte Gray. I loved it.
What a fascinating, at times terrifying journey she undertakes! We follow her journey from Scotland as she heads south to London to do her bit for the war effort, meeting various people who each alter the course of her life, and one of whom she falls in love with, and it becomes her destiny to follow him to France. But on arriving in France and uncovering the truth of the situation ther
Mar 30, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
This book was fantastic. I find Sebastian Faulks language and imagery fascinating. This has something to do with the fact that I am also fascinated by war literature, but also has much to do with Sebastian Faulks love story. His description of love, love for ones country and the epic love story between Charlotte and Gregory is simply stunning. His description of the landscapes he sets his charcters in was also beautiful. Beauty is juxtaposed with harrowing images of the 2nd world war, and partic ...more
Dec 17, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps, using a lot of " Carve her name with Pride " annotation in the storyline.
However, as masterfully written as other Faulks books. The book does
transport you straight into German Occupied France of WW2.
The omnipresent peril into which the herione has been placed is
vividly conveyed, and leaves the reader agitated for her continued

As the story progresses, the brutal reality of reprisals against
Allied espionage activity against the German war effort in France,
Karen Whittard
This is my first Sebastian Faulks book I have read I was leant it by a friend who told me it was very hard to get into, and boy was she right. The first 200 pages or so we a real struggle to get through. I wanted to hurl the book at the wall and yell defeat. But I prevailed. I would love to say it got better and well it did for a bit. The devastation of the war was well written but the ending left me deflated. Not warming to the main character is a real bug bear of mine why have a main character ...more
Feb 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Charlotte Gray is Sebastian Faulk's second book on war. This one is on World War 2 and this time the heroine is female. Like "Birdsong" the character escapes into war after a painful love affair. This character becomes an agent in the French Underground movement which gives the novel a John LeCarre feel. There was an unfortunate film made from this novel which was very disappointing. The novel has far more substance and the author's imagery with words exceeds that of the film. ...more
Aug 08, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lovely London drizzle of a book, giving back in atmosphere and mood what it lacks in comfort or pleasure. The care and research is so evident and painstaking, the writing so precise, it fools you that you’re not emotionally involved, so be prepared for emotional devastation when, in the last fifty pages, the author cuts all those beautiful cords he’s woven between the characters, leaving you winded.
May 17, 2010 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I only perservered with this book because of how much i enjoyed the previous two "french" books by Faulks. This is no where near as good. It rambles and stumbles and i know he thinks there is something deep here about identity and personality, but it fails to reveal itself in the turgid storyline. It does finally pick up the pace after about 350 pages of a 500 page book but too late to save itself. ...more
Aug 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Can I read it all again please? Superbly written. Beautiful characters. A powerful love. Strong relationships that surpass friendship. All amidst a war. The description of which you feel as if you are living the war with them. My first ever Faulks. Love love.
Huw Rhys
Jan 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just a beautiful book - Sebastian Faulks gets it spot on, as usual.
Doing for the 2nd World War what he did for the 1st in "Birdsong", Sebastian Faulks presents a wonderful picture of life in France during the war years.

Charlotte Gray is sent to Occupied France to run an errand for an undercover special operations unit. However she has a mission of her own - to find her lover, and airman lost in action over France.

She stays in France, against her orders, and settles in the small town of Lauverette whilst she tries to find information about her lover. Hiding her
Ellie M
Jan 07, 2017 rated it really liked it
I liked this book but didn't think it was as good as some of Sebastian Faulks other novels. On the plus side it educated me a bit more about France under occupation in WW2 - I noticed done reviewers didn't like that aspect of the novel but I thought it was handled well.

Charlotte, a young Scottish girl, meets Peter, an RAF pilot and romance ensues (I see Faulks was award a bad sex award and yes one scene was a bit cringy). Peter is of flying secret missions in France and crashes and goes missing
I couldn't resist picking up this novel after reading the back cover. A young Scottish woman (Charlotte) follows her downed pilot lover (Peter Gregory) to France as a Secrete SOE-type agent to help the French Resistance, and perhaps even rescue Peter. The plot sounds very intriguing...unfortunately, the author didn't pull it off nearly as well as he could have. Peter Gregory disappears somewhere over France at the very beginning, and has very little to do with the remainder of the book. He's jus ...more
Mar 05, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I felt for the characters in Charlotte Gray. The story was plausible and I wanted to know what happened next. Structurally too the novel was pretty good; the manipulation of tension within the story was expertly handled and for me that was part of the enjoyment.

What I didn't like were aspects of Faulks' style. He ascribes too much importance to everyday actions, as though everything in the book has some significant philosophical meaning. There is a place for this of course - how dull stories wou
Aug 17, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book gave me a totally new way of looking at the people of France during the Second War. We were always taught that it was fear of repercussions that kept the French quiescent during the first part of the war. Faulks says that there were a large number of people who felt that the Republic had lost its way, that the government was not providing leadership and that if they had to put up with the Germans in order to get some order and direction in the country then that is what they would do. T ...more
I had high hopes for this book, because I absolutely loved Birdsong, but I found it left me rather unmoved. It's written in what seems, to me at least, to be a curiously detached style and it didn't seem to really penetrate beneath the surface of the characters. Even amidst the danger of Occupied France, SS officers on trains, children being sent to concentration camps, the collaboration and resistance of the French, I never really cared very much about what happened to the characters. The one p ...more
Jan 28, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having loved Birdsong, I approached this novel with a weighty amount of expectation that was perhaps unfair and definitely not met.

I found Charlotte, the title character and driver of the novel's path to be disappointingly dependant, and really quite irritating. She seemed to gain independence to a certain degree once in France, but at not point did I feel she was an advocate for female power in the war effort, when her drive is built on finding a man.

Having said this, I do enjoy Faulks' writing
Rosalind Minett
Oct 19, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very well plotted. Thoroughly satisfying.

This novel brings out the sheer courage and risk-taking of both French and English in circumstances impossible to replicate today.
More than that, there are three very strongly-drawn characters. Altogether, not a novel to put down unless forced by the daily round!
Nov 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a fantastic book set in wwII France and England. As historical fiction, it was fascinating to read. As a love story, it was sweet, but not overly and not maudlin. The secondary characters made the book. I found myself crying as a read about the inhumanity shown in this time period, but there were moments of hope too. I can't wait to read another book by this author. ...more
Sep 15, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
love it.war and women.....brill
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Sebastian Faulks was born in 1953, and grew up in Newbury, the son of a judge and a repertory actress. He attended Wellington College and studied at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, although he didn’t enjoy attending either institution. Cambridge in the 70s was still quite male-dominated, and he says that you had to cycle about 5 miles to meet a girl. He was the first literary editor of “The Independe ...more

Other books in the series

French Trilogy (3 books)
  • The Girl at the Lion d'Or
  • Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War

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