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Never Anyone But You
Cover of Never Anyone But You
Never Anyone But You
A Novel
Borrow Borrow
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Guardian, The Observer, and Sydney Morning Herald.
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.
Named a Best Book of the Year by The Guardian, The Observer, and Sydney Morning Herald.
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.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book AN EVENING SWIM  
     
    1940  
     
    I was in the sea when the first bomb fell. Some way out, and floating on my back. Staring up into a cloudless sky. It was a Friday evening towards the end of June. As one of the planes banked to the south, over Mont Fiquet, I could make out stark black shapes on its wings. Swastikas. Fear swerved through me, dark and resonant, like a swarm of bees spilling from a hive. Upright suddenly, I trod water, my breathing rapid, panicky. Like everybody on the island, I had been dreading this moment. Now it had come. There were several planes, and they were flying high up, as if wary of anti-aircraft fire. Didn’t they know that all our troops had been evacuated and only civilians remained? A wave caught me, and I went under. The ocean seemed to shudder. When I came up again a column of smoke was rising, treacle black, above the headland to the east.

    I began to swim back to the shore. My limbs felt weak and uncoordinated, and even though the tide was going in it seemed to take a long time to make any progress. A knot of people huddled on the beach. Others were running towards the road. One of them tripped and fell, but nobody waited or even noticed. Claude had swum earlier. She would be upstairs, smoothing cream into her arms and legs. Edna, our housekeeper, would be preparing supper, a tumbler of neat whiskey on the windowsill above the sink. Our cat would be sprawled on the terrace, the flagstones still warm from the sun—or perhaps, like me, he had been alarmed by the explosions, and had darted back into the house. It seemed wrong that the waves paid no attention to what was happening, but kept rolling shorewards, unrushed, almost lazy.
    I was wading through the shallows when I heard another distant thump. It sounded halfhearted, but a fluttering had started in my stomach. Normally, I would dry myself on the beach, savoring the chill on my skin, the last of the light, the peace. Instead, I gathered up my shoes and my towel and hurried back towards the house, feeling clumsy, nauseous.
    As I reached the slipway, two more planes swooped over the bay, much lower now, their engines throbbing, hoarse. I cowered beside an upturned rowing boat. The chatter of machine guns, splashes lifting into the air like a row of white weeds. I felt embarrassed, though, a forty-seven-year-old woman behaving like a child, and stood up quickly. I entered our garden through the side door. Claude was standing on the grass bank that overlooked the beach. The hose lay on the lawn behind her, water rushing from the nozzle. Dressed in a white bathing suit, she had one hand on 
    her hip. In the other she held a lighted cigarette. She had the air of a general surveying a battlefield. They might have been her planes, her bombs.
    “Were you in the sea?” she asked. I nodded. “Yes.”
    “I thought you were upstairs.” “No.”
    “So you saw them?” I nodded again.
    “I saw everything,” she said. “I even saw the faces of the pilots.”
    Her voice was calm, and she was giving off a kind of radiance. I had seen the look before, but couldn’t remember where or when. I stood below her on the lawn, my hair dripping. The short grass prickled between my toes.
    “I have a strange feeling, something like elation.” She faced east, towards Noirmont. Smoke dirtied the pure blue sky. “I think it’s because we’re going to be tested.”
    “You don’t think we’ve been tested enough?” “Not like this.”
    Earlier that month, we had heard rumors...
About the Author-
  • Rupert Thomson is the author of nine highly acclaimed novels, including Secrecy; The Insult, which was shortlisted for the Guardian Fiction Prize and selected by David Bowie as one of his 100 Must-Read Books of All Time; The Book of Revelation, which was made into a feature film by Ana Kokkinos; and Death of a Murderer, which was shortlisted for the Costa Novel of the Year Award. His memoir, This Party's Got to Stop, was named Writers' Guild Non-Fiction Book of the Year. He lives in London.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    February 15, 2018

    On the eve of the Nazi invasion of the Channel Islands, two women stand in their garden worrying about the future and contemplating their past. From the moment that Lucie and Suzanne lay eyes on each other in 1909, they form a fierce attachment. Although they are regarded by their small village as eccentrics, affecting mannish clothing and adopting new masculine names (Claude and Marcel), they fit right into the Bohemian Paris of the 1920s. In literary salons and gatherings, they join a group of Surrealists and mingle with artists and writers like Dali, Miro, and Hemingway. When fascism begins its spread across Europe, the women decamp to the isle of Jersey, where they purchase a seaside villa and befriend the locals. Once the Nazis arrive, however, the women bravely undertake a dangerous propaganda campaign aimed at undermining the German cause. VERDICT With a dash of Midnight in Paris and a hint of Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer's The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, this part love story, part thriller is sure to captivate.--Barbara Love, formerly with Kingston Frontenac P.L., Ont.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    May 7, 2018
    The evocative latest from Thomson (Katherine Carlyle) follows two unsung female French World War II heroes and traces their lives from their teen years to their deaths. The book’s narrator, Suzanne Malherbe, almost 17, meets the charismatic and mature 14-year-old Lucie Schwob in their hometown of Nantes in 1909; they bond immediately and become lovers after a few years. Lucie, a free spirit, reinvents herself as Claude Courlis (later Cahun), and Suzanne follows suit, calling herself Marcel Moore, both reasoning that the male names better suit their independent identities. In Paris in the 1920s and ’30s the two (Suzanne a photographer and illustrator, Lucie a writer and model for Suzanne) hobnob with Surrealist artists and writers and later move to the British island of Jersey off the Normandy coast, where they create a clandestine anti-Nazi propaganda campaign during the German occupation. The push and pull between the rock-steady Suzanne and the more volatile and sensitive Lucie is a constant undercurrent, but the strength of their relationship is never more powerful than during their face-off with the Nazis and their subsequent survival. In this seamless and comprehensive tale, Thompson shines a light on two impressive and memorable life stories.

  • Kirkus

    April 1, 2018
    An intense clandestine love affair between two Frenchwomen during the first half of the 20th century spans art and literature, war and imprisonment, madness and devotion.In his 10th novel, British writer Thomson (Katherine Carlyle, 2015, etc.) traces the intertwined biographies of two historical challengers of convention: Suzanne Malherbe, aka Marcel Moore, and Lucie Schwob, aka Claude Cahun. Their teenage attraction, which blossomed into adult love, was shielded by the fact that Suzanne's widowed mother and Lucie's divorced father fell in love and married, transforming the women into stepsisters. The daughter of a schizophrenic mother, Claude is impulsive and volatile, anorexic, sometimes suicidal, a cross-dresser who explores creativity in various forms, including acting and writing. Marcel, an illustrator and photographer, is the more grounded, less wayward of the two. After growing up in Nantes, the two women move to Paris in 1920, where they mingle with Dadaists, surrealists, and the avant-garde. Dalí makes an appearance, as do Hemingway, André Breton, and others. A sequence of holidays spent in the Channel Isles leads to a decision to move there in 1937, but the Nazi occupation in 1940 destroys the women's idyllic life. For the next four years, Claude and Marcel perform their own acts of resistance, printing and distributing subversive leaflets, but their semi-creative actions lead to dark consequences when the Germans arrest, interrogate, and imprison them for months. It's the war experiences of Claude and Marcel and their circle that strike the most memorable, penetrating note in this loosely spun account of bohemian choices. Thomson approaches the women's story with poetic empathy, yet the result can seem scant and oddly paced, swooping in for consequential moments, then jumping ahead without connection. The effect is both beguiling and detached.A real-life modernist relationship is revived with commitment if not quite enough conviction.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    April 15, 2018
    Thomson's (Katherine Carlyle, 2015) latest is based on the real-life relationship between illustrator, designer, and photographer Suzanne Malherbe and the half-Jewish writer and photographer Lucie Schwob, who changed their names to Marcel Moore and Claude Cahun, respectively. They met before the start of the Great War in a small French town. Privately they become lovers, but to the outside world they are sisters. They move to Paris, where they befriend some of the biggest names of the era, including Apollinaire, Andr� Breton, and Sylvia Beach and Adrienne Monnier, proprietors of the famous bookshop Shakespeare and Company. But Thomson has more on his mind than mere name-dropping as the novel turns darker and takes place over many decades. The women move to the island of Jersey, the Nazis assume power in Europe and soon occupy their adopted home, and they are imprisoned for anti-Nazi propaganda. Readers enamored of Paris in its artistic and literary heyday and curious about overlooked historical women and members of the LGBT community will be moved by Thomson's lovely, quietly powerful novel of reinvention in many forms.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

  • The Guardian, Best Books of the Year "A fascinating portrait of two women who challenged gender boundaries and society's norms in all they did, the book builds to a moving celebration of resistance, creativity and self-reinvention."
  • The Observer, Best Books of the Year "Gorgeous and heart-rending."
  • Sydney Morning Herald, Best Books of the Year "Never Anyone But You...recounts the story of two women caught in the German occupation of Jersey in ways that enlarge our understanding of history and sexuality."
  • New York Times Book Review "There's so much sheer moxie, prismatic identity, pleasure and danger in these lives...the scenes are tense, particular and embodied...wonderfully peculiar."
  • Harper's "Sleek, lush...an extraordinary and rollicking tale...Cahun and Moore's is a beautiful love story that deserves to be better known."
  • Nylon "Though knowing that Cahun and Moore were real people adds a keen edge to the novel's power, it is Thomson's brilliant writing and ability to evoke the love and commitment these two women had toward each other and toward their principles that will stay with you...[an] extraordinary, inspiring, heart-breaking tale."
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A Novel
Rupert Thomson
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