Code Name Sapphire

Pam Jenoff

Park Row Pub

Feb 7th, 2023

Code Name Sapphire by Pam Jenoff is the latest of her historical novels. The plot begins in 1942 and revolves around three women, each with a distinctly different personality. The story has love, resilience, complicated family relationships, betrayal, and secrets. 

“It is a story of growth.  I like writing about women in history.  With the war women are challenged, tested, and it is exciting to see their response.  There is a wonderful non-fiction book titled The Twentieth Train by Marion Schreiber that has the real-life data. I was so amazed by this.  I wondered why more people had not done this.”

The story begins with the Nazis attacking a couple in Germany. Hannah Martel drew satiric anti-Nazi cartoons and her fiancé, Isaac, printed them in his underground Berlin newspaper. Attacked brutally, Isaac dies in Hannah’s hands and begs her to escape.  Knowing it is a matter of time until she will be found, Hannah flees for Havana on a ship. As with the MS Saint-Louis the German refugees are not allowed to disembark on Cuba’s shores and the ship is sent back to Europe.  Hannah is saved by her cousin Lily because Belgium has a law that accepts refugees if they have a local relative.  Lily welcomes her cousin and now lives with the family. But Hannah knows it is a matter of time until her German resistance past catches up with her, so she agrees to work with the Belgian underground in exchange for getting help to travel to England or America. 

Readers realize that the three women brought together have their own strengths and weaknesses. Micheline is head of the Sapphire Line resistance network that mainly rescues downed allied pilots and helps them to escape. Lily is reluctant to do anything that might change the status quo of her comfortable life.  Each of these women come together as they try to survive the Nazi occupation. 

“Hannah and Lily are cousins who have not remained in touch.  I wanted to show how their lives went in different directions, but now they are coming back together.  Lily is trying to stay uninvolved to keep her family safe. Hannah has been through the worst of circumstances and must re-learn how to trust and depend on others. Micheline is the outlier, a character inspired by the real woman who ran one of escape lines.”

Each woman had their own distinct personalities. “Hannah is solitary, desperate, vulnerable, artistic, independent, brave, headstrong, guilt-ridden, and stubborn. 

Lily is calm, likes order, does not like confrontation, sheltered, naïve, kind, and thoughtful. 

Micheline: Passionate, a leader, strong, detailed, a planner, blunt, protective, restless, fierce, and combative.”

This story has a lot of suspense and readers will try to understand some of the decisions made that at times seems like a betrayal. The ending twist might throw people for a loop. 



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About the Author

Elise Cooper

Elise writes book reviews that always include a short author interview.