Friday, February 14, 2014

Priscilla by Nicholas Shakespeare

It is always so interesting, this period of the 20-30-40's, to read about it's women.There were a few very strong, very surprising women who did not fit the mold. Priscilla Mais was one of these women. Her nephew Nicholas Shakespeare, through a series of love letters, photos and a draft of an autobiography, pieced together a fantastic tale of his aunt, quite different from the one the family passed down.
She was beautiful, of that  there seems to be no question..but the "survivor" of the French Resistence story seems to be just that, a story. Born in England and shipped off to France after her mother ran away with a lover, she befriended another English school girl, Gillian. Back in England after school, she was a young woman headed back to France for an abortion. There she met & married an older, impotent aristocrat, but her marriage didn't last. While her husband was off fighting the Germans, his family sent her packing so that they were not attacked for harboring an enemy alien.
Priscilla was indeed interred for a few months, but was released due to pregnancy…she was a good actress. Along came a string of lovers, single & married who were charmed by her beauty and seemingly fragile nature. Shady characters, black marketeers, German name it. She did survive, and showed up in England, on her old pal Gillian's doorstep, having "survived" the occupation. (Gillian ended up discovering the truth and wrote about it, unpublished however)
Shakespeare uncovers the not so noble truth about his aunt in this interesting story.
In his  words:
" At first glance, it was embarrassing to discover what Priscilla got up to. Of course, I wished for my aunt to be heroic. I wanted her to be an exception. But she was not an exception, she was just an ordinary woman in extraordinary circumstances".
There is no doubt that Priscilla was a survivor, and I think you will come to that yourself after reading the book. If you like to read about strong, resilient women, then this one's for you:)

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