In the south of Vichy France, during the early years of WWII, Varian Fry has been tasked with coordinating the escape of prominent artists on behalf of the Emergency Rescue Committee. (Some of these refugees are fictional, but others, such as Marc Chagall and Hannah Arendt, are historic.) Documents are an issue, but his ad hoc relief organization have many who know someone who knows someone, and several escape routes that are occasionally available. At least for a short period. And these refugees are holed up in the south of France, waiting for their chance.
Fry has a wife back in New York, impatient for him to come home, but the Committee has sent some personnel to assist Fry and his team, and oh look. One of them is his ex-boyfriend from college days. So there are some secrets from the past, and some crossed wires, but in the end, love triumphs! Also some, but not all, refugees make it out as well.
I very much enjoyed this writer’s ability to convey a sense of place. Most of the story is set in Marseille, a place I dearly love, having spent a week there many, many years ago. “. . . the Vieux Port exhaled a constant fragrance of seaweed and salt. At this hour the port was still faintly illuminated by a horizon line of brilliant yellow, the last liquid dregs of a sunset that had insisted its corals and saffron through the fog. But in the streets, darkness had already fallen; the alleys pf the port district snaked into ill-lit caverns on either side of the boulevard.” Not a tourist town then, and I suspect, still not.