I have a rather intense weakness for books set during World War II, especially when it focuses on the people fighting the good fight at home rather in a battle field setting. I also have an even bigger weakness for WLW stories.
Never Anyone But You is the fictional retelling of the very real lives of two artists, Suzanne Malherbe (aka. Marcel Moore) and Lucie Schwob (aka. Claude Cahun), as they fall in love and end up fighting against the Nazi occupation of Jersey Island through art and wordplay, risking their lives every second they remain together.
Told from Suzanne’s perspective we see how her life changes and her intense dedication to her partner, Claude as they transcend the gender norms of the early to mid 20th century both in their work and even in how they present themselves to the world. I have, personally, always enjoyed obscure photography from war times and earlier and had heard Claude’s name in passing, but have never known of their work or what they mean to the surrealist and queer communities. Having died shortly after the war, it’s hard to tell if Claude was non-binary or transgender, but this novel has sparked an intense appreciation of their work and their legacy in art, fashion, and writing.
This book broke my heart in a very real way as I felt incredibly connected to Claude both in terms of gender identity as well as mental illness. Rupert Thomson does an absolutely stunning job of capturing the intense love between these two people and their surreal lives spent with the likes of Hemingway and Dalí. I felt like I really got to know Suzanne and Claude through this book and will certainly be looking into Thomson’s other novels.