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Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris
     

Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris

4.3 6
by Alex Kershaw
 

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The best-selling author of The Liberator brings to life the incredible true story of an American doctor in Paris, and his heroic espionage efforts during World War II

The leafy Avenue Foch, one of the most exclusive residential streets in Nazi-occupied France, was Paris's hotbed of daring spies, murderous secret police, amoral informers, and Vichy

Overview

The best-selling author of The Liberator brings to life the incredible true story of an American doctor in Paris, and his heroic espionage efforts during World War II

The leafy Avenue Foch, one of the most exclusive residential streets in Nazi-occupied France, was Paris's hotbed of daring spies, murderous secret police, amoral informers, and Vichy collaborators. So when American physician Sumner Jackson, who lived with his wife and young son Phillip at Number 11, found himself drawn into the Liberation network of the French resistance, he knew the stakes were impossibly high. Just down the road at Number 31 was the "mad sadist" Theodor Dannecker, an Eichmann protégé charged with deporting French Jews to concentration camps. And Number 84 housed the Parisian headquarters of the Gestapo, run by the most effective spy hunter in Nazi Germany.

From his office at the American Hospital, itself an epicenter of Allied and Axis intrigue, Jackson smuggled fallen Allied fighter pilots safely out of France, a job complicated by the hospital director's close ties to collaborationist Vichy. After witnessing the brutal round-up of his Jewish friends, Jackson invited Liberation to officially operate out of his home at Number 11—but the noose soon began to tighten. When his secret life was discovered by his Nazi neighbors, he and his family were forced to undertake  a journey into the dark heart of the war-torn continent from which there was little chance of return.

Drawing upon a wealth of primary source material and extensive interviews with Phillip Jackson, Alex Kershaw recreates the City of Light during its darkest days. The untold story of the Jackson family anchors the suspenseful narrative, and Kershaw dazzles readers with the vivid immediacy of the best spy thrillers. Awash with the tense atmosphere of World War II's Europe, Avenue of Spies introduces us to the brave doctor who risked everything to defy Hitler.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
08/10/2015
WWII historian Kershaw (The Liberator) revisits the valorous actions of American surgeon Sumner Jackson who, along with his French wife, Toquette, and young son, Phillip, falsified the medical records of Allied pilots and troops at the American Hospital in Paris to aid them in escaping the Nazis. During the four years of German occupation, the Jackson residence—which was located on the same avenue as the Gestapo headquarters—became a valuable conduit for French resistance fighters, who from the fall of 1940 had been pitted against the Nazi Schutzstaffel and their informers. Kershaw, using war documents and interviews with the aging Phillip, brilliantly captures the deadly cat-and-mouse game between Charles de Gaulle's underground and the Nazis and Vichy fascists. As the Gestapo infiltrate the resistance and discover its secrets, the Jacksons suffer the same fate as their friends, enduring the unspeakable torment of those they aided in the closing moments of the war. Kershaw's sobering look at a family's heroism in one of the history's darkest hours vividly shows what war costs in human terms. (Aug.)
Library Journal
06/01/2015
When German forces marched into Paris in June 1940, many of Adolf Hitler's highest ranking officials quickly took up residence along Avenue Foch, the exclusive boulevard near the Arc de Triomphe. Despite the close proximity of prominent military and gestapo officers, American physician Sumner Jackson and his French wife, Toquette, carried out clandestine opposition activities at their nearby residence throughout the war years. From a hospital in Neuilly, Jackson smuggled downed airmen out of France. Meanwhile, from their home on Avenue Foch, Toquette and son Phillip provided a safe haven for members of the French Resistance. Based largely on personal interviews with Phillip, best-selling author Kershaw (The Bedford Boys; The Longest Winter) relates the remembered stories of one heroic family against the backdrop of larger world events. This book joins a growing number of accounts of life in France under Nazi occupation, including Ronald C. Rosbottom's When Paris Went Dark, Caroline Morehead's Village of Secrets, and Peter Grose's A Good Place To Hide. VERDICT Written with an engaging and expressive writing style, Kershaw's stirring tale of good and evil in the City of Light will have wide appeal.—Linda Frederiksen, Washington State Univ. Lib., Vancouver
Kirkus Reviews
2015-05-13
The saga of a well-situated American doctor and his Swiss-born wife caught up in Resistance activity in occupied Paris. Kershaw (The Liberator: One World War II Soldier's 500-Day Odyssey from the Beaches of Sicily to the Gates of Dachau, 2012, etc.) tells a sympathetic story of an American doctor at Neuilly-sur-Seine's prestigious American Hospital in Paris, a veteran of World War I who married a Parisian and resolved, with her and their adolescent son, to stay in Paris and carry on when the Nazis arrived. Dr. Sumner Jackson was the chief surgeon of the American Hospital, a somewhat forbidding, short-tempered, enormously capable doctor who decided to stay in Paris when the Nazis invaded, mainly because his wife, Toquette, was so ardently opposed to living in America. Many of the other chief doctors at the hospital decamped (or committed suicide), but Jackson stayed on, making sure the hospital stayed full—he evacuated the French and protected the English and American POW patients by falsifying records—so that the Germans would not think to close it. Kershaw also depicts the tightening of the SS tentacles on life in Paris thanks to the impassioned work of Paris Gestapo chief Helmut "Bones" Knochen, who lodged on the chic Avenue Foch, where Jackson and his family also lived. The avenue, named for the hero of World War I who had shamed the vanquished Germans at Versailles—an irony not lost on the occupiers—became the locus of Nazi power in Paris and was thus attractive to the leaders of the Resistance, who enlisted Toquette to use the family's place as a spy drop. Famine, patriotism, collaboration, deportation—Kershaw portrays the suspense and terror of this time in the plight of one well-intentioned American-French family caught up in the horror. A tenderly engaging saga of solid research and emotional connection.
From the Publisher
New York Times Bestseller

"Rich in atmosphere and noirish effects, Kershaw’s story centers on the harrowing experience of American-born doctor Sumner Jackson and his family, who undertook dangerous work for the French Resistance." Boston Globe

"From the opening pages, when Kershaw...drops us into the invasion of Paris, we know that we are in good hands. This is classic narrative nonfiction, constructed and written like a thriller." Chicago Tribune

"It's the least surprising thing in the world to discover that historian Alex Kershaw's latest book, Avenue of Spies, has already been optioned for development with Sony Pictures TV. Its circumstances — an American family in Paris aiding the French resistance from an apartment only a few doors down from the Paris headquarters of the SS — are too cinematic to ignore." —NPR

"A true story that reads like a thriller." New York Post

"Avenue of Spies provides a lens into the life of a family’s extraordinary espionage efforts...Gripping...and inspiring. This is a powerful book to read anytime, but especially as we mark the 75th anniversary of the Nazi occupation of France." Missourian

"Brilliantly captures the deadly cat-and-mouse game between Charles de Gaulle's underground and the Nazis and Vichy fascists...Kershaw's sobering look at a family's heroism in one of the history's darkest hours vividly shows what war costs in human terms." Publishers Weekly

"Kershaw portrays the suspense and terror of this time in the plight of one well-intentioned American-French family caught up in the horror. A tenderly engaging saga of solid research and emotional connection." Kirkus Reviews

"An intense, moving account that also serves to vividly describe the life of ordinary Parisians under the occupation." Booklist [starred]

"Written with an engaging and expressive writing style, Kershaw's stirring tale of good and evil in the City of Light will have wide appeal." Library Journal

"[A] tense and compelling narrative." BookPage

"With a master storyteller's gift for character, pacing, and heart-stopping detail, Alex Kershaw transports us to wartime Paris, where one American family risked their lives to join the Resistance and defy Hitler. Avenue of Spies is a haunting, harrowing tale that reads like an elegant thriller, with the added benefit that every word is true. I was gripped by the first page to the last." —Karen Abbott, bestselling author of Sin in the Second City and Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy

"Avenue of Spies is the best kind of spy story—a true one.  Alex Kershaw has written a heart-rending thriller of espionage set in the darkest shadow of the Holocaust. A powerful story of quiet heroism." Kai Bird, Pulitzer Prize-winning co-author of American Prometheus and bestselling author of The Good Spy

 "Alex Kershaw’s Avenue of Spies is a good book with a good story, but what I like especially about it is that it's an 'Americans abroad' story—Ex-pat Nation is loaded with brave, idealistic people and the Jackson family numbered high among them." —Alan Furst, author of Midnight in Europe

"Avenue of Spies is an unforgettable testament to the power of personal courage and conviction in the face of evil. Sumner Jackson and his family were caught in a vortex of fear and hatred that was as close as a neighbor’s door on Avenue Foch in Paris. They risked everything in the darkest hours of Nazi terror, determined to fight for human dignity and freedom. This is a story of resistance and bravery that is profoundly uplifting." —David E. Hoffman, author of The Billion Dollar Spy and The Dead Hand

"A spellbinding tale of triumph and tragedy. Intimate and terrifying, Avenue of Spies is impossible to put down. This is Alex Kershaw at his best." —Annie Jacobsen, bestselling author of Operation Paperclip 

"Avenue of Spies delivers a crisp, pulse-pounding narrative. Kershaw recreates the drama and suspense of war-torn occupied Paris. A taut thriller, the book is centered on an intrepid American family and is filled with a cast of unforgettable characters. Avenue of Spies is like sipping a fine wine: sublime!" —Patrick K. O'Donnell, bestselling author of First SEALs: the Untold Story of the Forging of America's Most Elite Unit​

"Kershaw marries sterling research with first-rate storytelling to put readers on the occupied streets of Paris, looking back over our shoulders in fear. Avenue of Spies is a triumph, an outstanding addition to World War II history." —Gregory A. Freeman, author of The Forgotten 500 and The Last Mission of the Wham Bam Boys

 “Kershaw is a master storyteller, and Avenue of Spies, like his previous books, reads like a thriller. From the opening scene…until the final desperate struggle that dominates the narrative’s conclusion, Kershaw has crafted a gripping, taut story that will keep readers turning pages long after they should have turned out the light.” James Scott, Charleston Post and Courier

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780804140034
Publisher:
Crown/Archetype
Publication date:
08/04/2015
Pages:
304
Sales rank:
312,956
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

ALEX KERSHAW is the New York Times bestselling author of several books on World War II, including The Bedford Boys and The Longest Winter. He lives in Willamstown, Massachusetts.

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Avenue of Spies: A True Story of Terror, Espionage, and One American Family's Heroic Resistance in Nazi-Occupied Paris 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
scull17 10 months ago
A very difficult read because the events related in the book are so horrific and unimaginable: the dangers and deprivations of everyday life in Paris under Nazi occupation during WWII; cruel and sadistic treatment by the Gestapo and Milice of persons deemed enemies of the state; the disgusting complicity of some of France’s own citizens to the horrors happening around them; deportations of thousands upon thousands of Jews, including children, to the Nazi death and work camps; and the extraordinary on-the-spot life-and-death decisions made by people like Toquette Jackson, who agreed to turn her home on Avenue Foch into a “drop box” for the intelligence-gathering activities of the Resistance, her decision made doubly risky by the fact that the Gestapo had set up headquarters just a few yards up the street from her on Avenue Foch; Sumner Jackson’s heroic refusal to leave his dying patients at Lübeck, forgoing the possibility of freedom for himself and his son. There are many, many scenes that will haunt you long after you’ve put down this book: the fate of British spies Violette Szabo, Lilian Rolfe and Denise Bloch at Ravensbrück concentration camp; prisoners trapped in the hold of the SS ship Thielbek as it began to fill with water; the dead bodies on the beaches of Neustadt, including children “who had been clubbed to death using rifles” because the Germans had run out of ammunition; Gestapo and SS officers refusing to acknowledge their guilt during their trials for crimes against humanity. This is a story of people brought to the limits of physical, mental, and moral endurance, of the courage and will to survive, when courage and will are the only things you have left, and when perhaps even courage and will are not enough.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
great spy thriller and true too!
ChatWithVera 11 months ago
We all need to read books like this about the people, places, events, and horrors that were the meat and potatoes of World War II. - even if biographical reads are not our "thing" nor historical non-fiction what we long to delve into. And even if the book is written in such a manner that it primarily bores us stiff. We need to read the stories. We need to acquaint ourselves with what happened to millions of people. We need to know the depth to which humanity can plunge and the height to which the human spirit can soar. Avenue of Spies sounded intriguing to me. I am a bit of a history buff so reading about the events of World War II wasn't much of a stretch for me to reach for the book and get started. But the story, while a relatively thin book, was a slow read. A tedious read. And frankly quite hard to grasp at the start. But about midway through, my interest began to latch hold and the story of Dr. Jackson and his wife and son captured my attention and left my heart weeping. Dr. Jackson was an American practicing medicine in Paris. His European wife was happiest on her own turf, so he happily resettled. Having been a doctor on the front lines of World War I, he easily transitioned from private practise to war injuries when the war came to Paris. Living and having his medical headquarters on the fashionable Avenue Foch with the most feared of German soldiers encamped as his neighbors did not deter him from pursing clandestine activities. The cost to him and his family was dear as this memoir brings out. Horrific circumstances and heroic personalities. We don't want to repeat World War II, so read and learn from history. I received a complimentary copy from Blogging For Books reviewers program. Opinions are solely my own.
Deb-Krenzer More than 1 year ago
4.5 stars This was definitely an interesting and informative book. It mostly dealt with one family (a husband, wife and their young son) who lived on Avenue Foch which just happened to be one of the richest streets of Paris during the second World War. The father was a doctor who was instrumental in getting a lot of people out of Paris and into ally countries. His wife was instrumental in getting involved with the resistance. Of course, there were other players in the book but these were the main ones. The story starts before Germany captures Paris and ends when Germany falls. It gives a total insight as to the inner working of the Third Reich and how some of the officers were not exactly playing by the book. I've read books that talk about the Germans coming in and taking over Paris and how they would act. But this book tells exactly what was going on behind the scenes and it gives a clearer picture about the train rides and the camps. I would like to thank Blogging for Books and the publisher for providing me with this e-galley in exchange for an honest review. I really enjoyed it and I highly recommend it. It's not a fun read, but unfortunately it's a factual read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The title pretty much tells my story.