Sebastian Faulks, Charlotte Gray – leather with Cate B “Books into Film”
Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks is a an important novel about courage and dignity in war-torn France. In 2001 it was made into a memorable film with Cate Blanchett and is first edition is re-issued as a beautiful leather bound edition of 12 copies signed by Faulks.
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Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks is a an important novel about courage and dignity in war-torn France. In 2001 it was made into a memorable film with Cate Blanchett and is re-issued as a beautiful leather bound edition of 12 copies signed by Faulks.
The introduction reads:
About one hundred years ago the guns fell silent. There was no glory – only carnage and the burning need to forget. Yet twenty years on, in 1940 – France – a great pivot of Western thought and social values – fell under Nazi tyranny. It was not just France which had fallen, but the blow was felt by all freedom-loving nations. Churchill responded by ordering a fight-back through a secret clandestine organisation known as SOE. The French Resistance were thus to be supported. Dedication to the cause and the ability to speak French were what were needed. In real life women such as Violette Szarbo valiantly contributed to the war effort. Yet today in our time the silence of what happened during these fateful years in human stories is only just being broken.
Sebastian Faulks has written several novels with a French background. They are layered with characters who reappear, and past wartime episodes linger in their consciousness. The entry point is the clever literary device – perhaps borrowed from Graham Greene – of the Englishman or woman abroad. This novel has an RAF airman, shot down struggling to survive in France – balanced with Charlotte Gray – a Scots woman who identifies with the French struggle against the Germans, drawn into the fight as an SOE agent. Before leaving they have an affair and the memory of it helps sustain them. This relationship, broken by the war, is in conflict with Dominique’s growing reliance on the friendship of Julien Levade. But all this is simply the doorway to a larger canvas about the social fabric being strained by the Vichy compliance to Berlin, and torn by vicious anti-Semitism. Levade senior is a pivotal character – another who suffered privations during the Great War – yet he is a decent man of faith. The fate of the Jewish boys becomes entwined with the personal choices of the main characters. Do they act, and fight back or acquiesce. Charlotte Gray brings to life these questions with emotion, power and allows for some reflection, too.
In the 2001 screen adaptation the scenery and build up to the mission are well-crafted. Memorable too is Michael Gambon’s portrayal of the artist Auguste Levade, perhaps a symbolic character of the good in us. Versatile actress Cate Blanchett leads the cast: giving a compelling and radiant performance as both Charlotte and Dominique. They are different persons, or one person being another. She is deft at the mental complexities involved.