What’s a Roman a Clef?

Have you ever heard of a roman a clef? Until recently, I sure hadn’t. For anyone who doesn’t already know, a roman a clef is a literary genre, usually historical fiction, that includes real events and real people, usually as supporting characters, with fictional main characters — and you know how much I love historical fiction!

I’ve read several of them over the last few months, and enjoyed every one. So, of course, I couldn’t wait to share them with you. Here are the best ones I’ve read:

One of them is the acclaimed novel by Janet Skeslien Charles, The Paris Library. The librarians of The American Library in Paris participated in the French Resistance in ways I never realized. Harassed and threatened by the Gestapo, the head librarian, Dorothy Reeder, an American ex-pat, was determined to keep the library open to the public. She and the other librarians smuggled books to soldiers being held prisoner by the Germans, as well as to Jews who were no longer allowed to enter the library. This is an important book that increases our understanding of the personal experiences of everyday people when war arrives on their turf.  Click here to read my review.

Another truly good one is The Light After the War, by Anita Abriel . This enthralling book is based on the true story of Ms. Abriel’s mother and her best friend, their escape from a train to Auschwitz, and how they rebuilt their lives after the war. This was another book I couldn’t put down – it has friendship and love, joy and sadness, fear and extreme courage.  To read my review of this one, click right here.

Then there is Paris Never Leaves You, by Ellen Feldman. This is a story of survival during the most difficult of circumstances that alternates between 1950s New York and Nazi-occupied Paris. To say people who survived the war were survivors is an understatement. They were resilient, intelligent, and shrewd. To read my review of this one, click here.

Here’s one more I read a couple of years ago that I loved, and just can’t leave out: Fateful Decisions, the debut novel of Trevor D’Silva. This book begins with the sinking of the Lusitania, and covers three generations of the same family. It explores how the choices we make can affect not only ourselves and our families, but generations to come, and recounts events and injustices of the early 20thcentury.  After reading my critique of the writing and grammar of the first edition of Fateful Decisions, the author asked me to edit large parts of the 2nd edition. It was a joy to work with this dedicated and very professional author. Click right here to read my full review.

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