Washington Post and Amazon Charts best-selling author, Jane Healey, presented her fourth novel, â€œGoodnight from Paris,â€ on May 24 at Winthrop Public Library. The biographical fiction set in Nazi-occupied France was inspired by the true story of feisty American actress, Drue Leyton, who became a resistance heroine during the Second World War. â€œGoodnight from Parisâ€ is a fascinating tale of loyalty, romance, and adventure.
â€œIt was a stranger-than-fiction story,â€ exclaimed Healey. â€œShe was incredibly brave and took many risks.â€
When Leytonâ€™s husband, Jacques TartiÃ©re, a Parisian film actor, is sent to Brittany in 1939 to work as a translator for the British military, Leyton embarks on her own dangerous journey.
Leyton broadcasts radio programming in the evening to enlighten Americans on the situation in Europe, and encourages them to join the fight against the Nazis. She relays these reports until June 1940, when Paris falls to Germany. France is completely occupied by 1942.
Leyton flees, settling in a Barbizon village, in the south of France.
â€œShe managed to evade the Germans by hiding in plain sight. She grew food to feed her friends in Paris,â€ said Healey, who is fascinated by WWII, as her grandfather served as a firefighter in the Navy, off the coast of Europe and Africa.
Following the attack on Pearl Harbor, Germans capture American and British women around Paris, and imprison them in the monkey house of a zoo for two days before relocating them to the Vittel internment camp on the German border, where Leyton is imprisoned for several months before being released in poor health in December 1942.
â€œIt was fascinating to read Drueâ€™s account. It had elements of comedy and tragedy,â€ Healey described. â€œTheir friends had to pay five francs admission to the zoo to talk to them and ask what to bring.â€
Leyton returns to her residence in Barbizon and becomes involved in an underground network of safe houses around Paris.
â€œIt was extraordinary work by average, French citizens,â€ Healey explained. â€œShe helps as a translator, and aids directly in the escape of British, American, and Canadian fliers.â€
Leyton hides five soldiers in the two cottages at the rear of the property. They remain indoors until the evening, when they are allowed to smoke beneath the shadow of a tree in the courtyard.
â€œShe describes it in her autobiography as a huge party in the streets of Barbizon,â€ said Healey about Franceâ€™s liberation in 1944. â€œBy the end of the war, Drue had overseen the escape of 42 American, British, and Canadian fliers, and assisted in helping over 100 others escape France.â€
Published in March, â€œGoodnight from Parisâ€ includes photographs acquired from Drue Leytonâ€™s personal scrapbooks that her granddaughter shared with Healey.
Healey has also written: â€œThe Saturday Evening Girls Club,â€ â€œThe Secret Stealers,â€ and â€œThe Beantown Girls.â€ The former high-tech product manager is a graduate of the University of New Hampshire and Northeastern University. The mother of two daughters lives with her family north of Boston, and enjoys traveling, running, cooking, and visiting the beach.
Visit www.JaneHealey.com to learn about upcoming events, schedule a virtual book club visit, or learn more about the author.