For everyone Book review: Small Acts of Defiance, Michelle Wright (A&U)

★★★★

It’s 1940, Paris is about to undergo a dramatic change under German occupation, and 16-year-old Lucie and mother Yvonne flee Australia for France, Yvonne’s birth country, after the sudden death of Lucie’s father.

Lucie, on the brink of adulthood, is faced with the choice – will she accept the occupation of these upright soldiers, fastidious and ubiquitous, saturating the streets, lifting works by Picasso, Miro and Klee from the Jeu de Paume to burn? Or will she side with the students in quiet, and then not-so-quiet, revolt? What she will not do, unlike many around her, is rat on her neighbours. 

This debut novel is an intimate and enthralling examination of personal responsibility, and the lengths regular citizens had to go to just to survive in a time of war and austerity. An engrossing character study and a sober portrait of a friendship between two young women – one a Jew at a time when being Jewish was treated as a crime – it makes for compulsive reading.

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