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The Race for A Good Read

What are we running from; what are we chasing? Often, wretchedly and amazingly, it is the same thing.

Meg Waite Clayton's strong, vivid historical novel The Race for Paris, brings these tough questions smack up to the surface of her riveting story about women warriors of a sort who broke down barriers for everyone who has followed their dreams in the face of prejudice on the one hand and daunting challenges -- physical and moral -- on the other.

This is a war story that helps those of us now distant in time to grow in respect for World War II's freedom fighters. Related with an unflinching eye, you taste the grit, smell the burning (flesh, petrol, explosives, bartered cigarettes) and confront the hard moral choices. The two women at the center of the plot follow the mandates of unblinking journalists. Clayton's prose pops harsh flash bulbs that illuminate gruesome battle and field-hospital scenes. While immersed in such well-told, brutal moments, you feel as if you are having your hand held tightly by a good friend.

The best parts of this novel elaborate the compelling, fraught girl-buddy story at its heart. Like many an intense friendship, this one is laced with mixed feelings, competitiveness, jealously, and deep mutual respect.

It's a dense novel, but a fast read.

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