Courage is “the ability to do something that frightens one.” [Oxford Dictionaries] In a male-dominated world, Olivia (Liv) Harper and Jane Tyler manage to break into the field of wartime journalism by sheer determination. The two women meet in a French field hospital in June 1944. Jane is a journalist from Nashville; in fact the story is told in her first person account. Liv is a photographer for the AP. They are covering WWII from the perspective of the doctors and nurses dealing with soldiers who have been injured. Not all of the men make it; they cover that too. Some of the injured soldiers are German; they cover that too. They continue to request a transfer to the frontlines in France. They are continually denied. No longer willing to accept ‘no’ from her commanding officer, Liv decides to make a go of it on her own. Jane agrees to go with her. They meet Fletcher Roebuck, a British Military photographer, and against his better judgement, he agrees to travel with and escort the two.
Meg Waite Clayton tells us in her ‘Author’s Note’, “Although this is a work of fiction, I’ve striven to make it historically accurate, and to that end have borrowed heavily from the facts of the lives of soldiers, support troops, journalists, and civilians involved in the war, and particularly from the experiences of … pioneering women.” Upon reading The Race for Paris, it is no doubt in my mind of the meticulous research the author put into her work. The chapters are not numbered. Instead, they are headed by the place and date much like a journal. Also at the beginning of each chapter is a quote from actual female journalists from that time. Photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White was quoted as saying, “I learned to appreciate a nice, deep, muddy ditch which I could roll into during shelling … to take a satisfactory bath in my helmet without upsetting it … to live like a gypsy, out of my bed roll, and to sleep almost anywhere.”
Jane and Liv were fictional, but their lives compare in a big way to the lives of actual lady journalists and photographers of their day. The first and last chapters were fifty years later, in celebration and commemoration of these women. The rest of the novel is a flashback to their story. I did have a problem with the pacing. The race turned out to be from the perspective of the tortoise and not the hare as there was much ado about small things. Rating: 3.5 out of 5.