Dark Clouds over Paris
Original English (US) MS available—a Dutch translation was published by HL Books in the Netherlands
For fans of Julie Berry’s Lovely War and Monica Hesse’s They Went Left
We’ve all read stories about resisters during World War II. But what about their teenage children who are left behind in an occupied city when the Gestapo arrests their parents?
In the debut YA historical novel, Dark Clouds over Paris (80,000 words), by published author Megan Koreman, twin brothers Jean and Michel lose their father to the concentration camps and their mother to an aerial bombardment. Suddenly responsible for the downed Allied aviator hiding in the back bedroom and their younger sister, the boys join forces with other teenagers from their decimated Resistance network and their elderly neighbors. Their first problem is food, but they also have to dodge an uncle who’s a paramilitary collaborator; smuggle military secrets to the Americans, and help liberate Paris. The jobs they finagle with American Civil Affairs officers keep them going financially until their parents do or do not return from the Third Reich. But it’s the new extended family they forge with each other and the old people that really sustains them.
Dark Clouds over Paris is based on true events found in the archives. As a former history professor with a PhD in modern European history, Megan Koreman has published non-fiction about the civilian experience of the Second World War.
In January 1944 twin brothers guide fugitives across occupied Paris. Jean (16) – a talented photographer who takes his responsibilities seriously – and Michel (16) – a dedicated trader on the black market and a math whiz – oppose the Nazis as part of their father’s resistance network.
A month later the boys come home from school to find plainclothes police ransacking their apartment. They are arrested along with their parents and their sister Suzette (13). After two nights in jail, the family is released without their father (53). The French police are turning him over to the Germans.
Michel witnesses German soldiers arrest other members of the network on the day that his friend Lucie (17) – a studious polyglot– is escorting a downed American aviator to her family’s café. Michel intercepts them and takes them through the dark streets to his own apartment building. The aviator – Jack (20) – has to stay with the twins’ family, but Lucie can hide with her grandmother, who lives one floor below. Neither has ration cards. Both must remain a secret from Lucie’s uncle (52) – a rabid paramilitary collaborator who is looking for her.
In order to get their dangerous guest out of Paris, the twins and their mother (49) try to reconnect to the network. When Jean returns to a place he once left a message, he finds a girl his own age. Marielle (16) has been taking care of her younger brothers and giving them her share of the food since their parents were arrested as resisters. Jean tells his brother that he visits Marielle every week out of duty, but, really, he’s falling in love with her.
In late April, the twins’ mother is caught in an Allied bombing raid and is killed by shrapnel from an anti-aircraft gun. Suzette blames Jack for their mother’s death. Jean must go to the German prison to tell their father. He comes home sure that their Pa is being tortured, but unwilling to burden the others with that knowledge.
Because the Germans are rounding young men up for forced labor, only Suzette can go outside during the summer of 1944. She makes common cause with Lucie’s grandmother (73) and three other old people from the building to stand in line for rations. She also searches out Marielle, only to discover that she cannot get any medicine for a wracking cough.
When the Resistance calls for a general uprising to liberate Paris, the teenagers and the old people build a barricade across their street. As soon as the Germans surrender, Jean makes his way across the city to find Marielle. But worrisome news undercuts their celebrations. Their parents have been deported to the concentration camps.
That same week Jack introduces the twins to an American civil affairs officer. Jean convinces him to take Marielle to a hospital. Michel finds jobs for himself, his brother and Lucie as translators for the US Army. While Marielle recuperates, her younger brothers move in with the twins and Suzette.
The teenagers’ wages and the tins of spam and cans of peaches that Michel scrounges from the quartermaster corps keep the kids and the old people fed over the last winter of the war.
Lucie’s parents and Marielle’s mother return from the concentration camps, but the twins’ father does not. The war has destroyed the twins’ family, killing their parents and making them orphans. But it has also given them a new family of old people and teenagers who survived by working together. They meet every day at Lucie’s family’s café.