Capucine Benoit lived her life as a free spirit in Paris. As a young widow, unable to provide the lifestyle she wanted for her daughter Mathilde, she agreed to have her raised by her late husband’s parents. Enjoying the jazz clubs and bohemian life at night, Capucine worked with her father during the day creating beautiful feather fans. In June 1940, her father is betrayed and arrested for his political views. Capucine, not willing to denounce her father, is also arrested and sent to a work camp within the Lévitan department store, which was converted into a collection site for all the items the Nazis looted from Jewish homes. The prisoners were assigned the task of sorting through all the furniture, artwork, jewelry and other valuables, organizing and repairing them. As Capucine’s daughter Mathilde grows up, she starts to question her grandparents’ beliefs including their support of the German occupation. She learns about the Résistance movement and vows to help her imprisoned mother.
Before reading The Paris Showroom, I was unaware that prisoners were held in Paris to prepare the plundered items so that the German officers could take whatever they wanted from the former four-story department store. Author Juliet Blackwell has done a fine job researching this period in history and telling this relatively unknown story. The mother-daughter story was emotional and effective. While WWII stories are always heartfelt and sad, I found this book to be written in a lighter style even though there is plenty of tragedy detailed. It therefore might also appeal to a younger audience. As I usually do with subject matter that's new to me, I spent time researching the real life Möbel Aktion or “Operation Furniture”. There are some fascinating articles and photos posted online that can serve as an excellent supplement to this book.
Rated 3.75 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: April 19, 2022.
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