Book Review: The French Gift by Kirsty Manning

The French Gift…

About the Book:

A forgotten manuscript threatens to unravel the past …

Fresnes Prison, 1940: Margot Bisset, a former maid from the Riviera, finds herself in a prison cell with writer and French Resistance fighter, Josephine Murant. Together, they are transferred to a work camp in Germany, where the secrets they share will bind them for generations to come.

Present-day Paris: Evie Black lives above her botanical bookshop with her teenage son, Hugo. Nursing a broken heart, Evie receives an unexpected letter; she clutches at an opportunity to spend a magical summer with Hugo on the Cote d’Azur.

It’s here, on the Riviera, that the past envelops them and Evie attempts to unravel the official story of a famous novelist. If she succeeds, a murder from a lifetime ago may be solved.

Inspired by a true story of iconic French Resistance fighter, Agnes Humbert, whose secret journal shed light on a little-known aspect of World War II, The French Gift will captivate readers from beginning to unforgettable end.

My Thoughts:

The French Gift pays homage to the women who were imprisoned in labour camps during WWII and sheds light on the little known ‘work’ they were forced to do in the most dangerous of working conditions. However, before you scroll on, thinking that you don’t need to read another WWII novel, there is a lot more to this story. It’s above all about friendship, of the life altering sort, that rare kind that is forged through shared circumstances and stoked by the embers of survival.

I really enjoyed this novel, it was structured with multiple timelines and three different female perspectives, but the author spent time nurturing each era and developing each character. She didn’t chop and change with each chapter, which I appreciated, because it allowed me to sink into each viewpoint without the constant pulling from one to the other. I was consequently able to bond with each character instead of having a preference for one over the other.

Stories about the Resistance will always interest me, I have direct family links to the French Resistance. I am also always interested in stories about writers, and The French Gift is about both of these topics. Win for me! I read this novel rapidly, it was so engrossing, even during what should have been the more difficult parts to read; the author wrote with such sensitivity and respect for the history and I have nothing but admiration for that.

The French Gift is a novel I can highly recommend. I think it would be a terrific book club choice too, particularly discussing the reveal that came towards the end. I actually began to have an inkling about it earlier on, but it would be fun to discuss with others what they thought, not just about the reveal, but also about the notion of truth with regards to revealing the past. What parts of the past need to be revealed and what parts should remain exactly where they are? A question worthy of bookish debate, certainly.


Thanks is extended to Allen & Unwin for providing me with a copy of The French Gift for review.

About the Author:

Kirsty Manning grew up in northern New South Wales. A country girl with wanderlust, her travels and studies have taken her through most of Europe, the east and west coasts of the United States and pockets of Asia.
Kirsty’s first novel was the enchanting The Midsummer Garden published in 2017. Her second book, the bestselling The Jade Lily, was published in 2018 and her third, The Lost Jewels, in 2020. Her novels are also published in the US and in Europe.
Kirsty is a partner in the award-winning Melbourne wine bar Bellota, and the Prince Wine Store in Sydney and Melbourne. She lives in Melbourne, Victoria.

The French Gift
Published by Allen & Unwin
Released 30th March 2021

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