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The true story of a love affair between two extraordinary women becomes a literary tour deforce in this novel that recreates the surrealist movement in Paris and the horrors of the two world wars with a singular incandescence and intimacy.
In the years preceding World War I, two young women meet, by chance, in a provincial town in France. Suzanne Malherbe, a shy seventeen-year-old with a talent for drawing, is completely entranced by the brilliant but troubled Lucie Schwob, who comes from a family of wealthy Jewish intellectuals. They embark on a clandestine love affair, terrified they will be discovered, but then, in an astonishing twist of fate, the mother of one marries the father of the other. As “sisters” they are finally free of suspicion, and, hungry for a more stimulating milieu, they move to Paris at a moment when art, literature, and politics blend in an explosive cocktail.
Having reinvented themselves as Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, they move in the most glamorous social circles, meeting everyone from Hemingway and Dalí to André Breton, and produce provocative photographs that still seem avant-garde today. In the 1930s, with the rise of anti-Semitism and threat of fascism, they leave Paris for Jersey, and it is on this idyllic island that they confront their destiny, creating a campaign of propaganda against Hitler’s occupying forces that will put their lives in jeopardy.
Brilliantly imagined, profoundly thought-provoking, and ultimately heartbreaking, Never Anyone But You infuses life into a forgotten history as only great literature can.
“A beautiful and extraordinary book, strange and moving and (as always with Rupert Thomson) quite unlike anything else…It’s a long time since I read a love story quite so convincing and truthful, and the background of the artistic avant-garde in the twenties and thirties is brilliantly evoked. But the fragrance (I can only think of it as a fragrance, like some old perfume such as Mitsouko) of the love affair emerges from the pages as if the very paper is suffused with it…A great novel.” —Philip Pullman, author of the bestselling His Dark Materials trilogy
“Never Anyone But You puts a hidden piece of history into its long-overdue place in the spotlight. Rupert Thomson deftly weaves a story that spans several decades—the Paris Surrealists, Nazi-occupied Jersey, heroic acts of resistance, and intense and enduring (and forbidden) love—into one seamless whole. Nail-bitingly tense and incredibly moving.” —Monica Ali, author of Brick Lane
“In prose so sharp it glitters, Rupert Thomson reveals in fiction what inevitably remains hidden in nonfiction—lived experience. Through the measured but incisive voice of Suzanne Malherbe, the reader enters the intimate world of two life-long lovers, artistic collaborators, and anti-Nazi rebels who left behind a haunting photographic legacy. After I finished this acute and tender book, I felt that two fascinating ghosts had become real.” —Siri Hustvedt, author of The Blazing World
“In this novel about Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, Rupert Thomson tells the thrilling story of how, fusing love and art, one of the great collaborative partnerships of the 20th century mounted an unthinkably brave, largely unsung campaign of political witness and resistance. The voice Thomson gives Marcel is a brilliant invention: flashes of poetry trouble the patina of its self-control, intimations of the wildness and terror of genius.” —Garth Greenwell, author of What Belongs to You