THE STORM OVER PARIS begins in the present in New York City with Porter Roth, and his wife Claire, dressing for an evening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where they are the honorees, about to donate a painting that Porter confides is a forgery. The tale then shifts to Porter’s grandfather, Maurice, known as Mori Rothstein, living in Paris during the German occupation in 1942. Mori, an art dealer, is forcibly brought before Hermann Goering, head of the Gestapo, who commands Mori to evaluate a huge selection of paintings in the Nazi-occupied Jeu de Paume Museum. Mori protests that the lighting is inadequate, the paintings are disorganized, and the reference materials available are outdated.
Mori is allowed to work in his own gallery, and paintings are delivered to him there daily. As he sees more and more that once belonged to his clients, Jews who have disappeared, he concocts a plan to have his talented son, Ėmile, make copies of some of the precious masterpieces in his care. One night Ėmile and his brother Jacob work at a nearby bakery, using the oven to heat a painting so it looks the appropriate age. As Jacob goes to hide the painting outside the gallery so it can be retrieved the next day, he’s picked up by the French police and the Nazi soldiers and taken to the Vél d’Hiv stadium, part of the roundup of thousands of Jews. Frantic, Mori has Ėmile create a forged Da Vinci sketch to offer to Goering for Jacob’s release.
In an effort to substantiate the Da Vinci sketch, Mori claims it belonged to a friend who sent it to him with a letter–which he then creates to show Bertolt, a knowledgeable but antagonistic German who assists Goering. Meanwhile, he knows that time is running out for him and his family, and he endlessly tries to think of ways for the family to escape from France. His friend Albert, the baker, tells him that there’s a resistance group that may be able to smuggle them to England.
Grubman combines details about the plan to replicate the valuable paintings and hide the originals with the gradual realization in the family that Jews have disappeared and their own lives may be in jeopardy–particularly if their deception is discovered. A few minor errors in editing the book–for example, the German “Herr” is misspelled as “Heir”–barely interfere with the growing suspense as the reader waits to discover the fate of the family in this engrossing and believable tale.
THE STORM OVER PARIS paints a taut and vivid portrait of life in Paris for a Jewish art dealer and his family during the Nazi occupation. The family executes a daring plan to protect priceless works of art while realizing that their freedom and their lives may be taken from them at any time.
~Elizabeth Jewell for IndieReader