Interrogating Ellie by Julian Gray

Interrogating Ellie by Julian Gray

Interrogating Ellie

Interrogating Ellie amazon 150 button

On the eve of World War II a naïve young woman makes a fateful decision: she will abandon her British citizenship and go to live in Nazi Austria. When her marriage breaks down and she finds herself alone in an enemy land, her passionate, restless nature drives her in a struggle for survival against the odds. Who can she trust? And ultimately, who can she love? Interrogating Ellie is based on a true story, revealed recently in military intelligence files held in the UK National Archive.

About the Author:

Julian Gray has written numerous non-fiction books and articles under another name. He lives in London with his one beautiful wife, two gorgeous cats and three delightful children. Writing Interrogating Ellie led him to Vienna and to towns around the Austrian countryside, visiting the sites where the dramatic events described in the book occurred 70 years ago.
Twitter:  @JulianFGray1    My Facebook

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Format: Paperback

Wow what a story! I think this is the book’s greatest feature, a woman’s struggle to survive and thrive in a country foreign to her and that only gets more so for her as time goes on. Knowing that it’s based on true events made the narrative even more engrossing. I found myself gripped by the different hardships Ellie encountered and seeing how she rose to meet each challenge to emerge stronger on the other side.

Ellie’s grit and tact for survival is something to behold. I don’t think I’ve come across a character as deft at changing with her environment as she. She’s able to adapt to whoever is in power (German, Russian, or British) and create situations which help her in survival. She’s portrayed as a flawed human who does what she needs to and isn’t sorry for it. While at times, these flaws almost went to the extreme of making her unlikable; overall, I found her very relatable to myself. I got to wondering what I would have done in her place.

I liked the format in which the story was told. For the most part, it’s a straightforward fictional narrative telling Ellie’s tale. Yet, interspersed within that narrative are snatches of her interrogation report in her struggle to re-apply for British citizenship, letters written by various parties detailing the events in the story, and various memos that also relate her overall story. These different formats give the story a depth and foundation in the events that inspired the story, making it richer and the reader more engaged.

I do, however, wish the book could have ended better. Not in the content, but with how it was written. The ending seems very choppy and sudden. Everything is wrapped up in an epilogue that contains phrases like “this happened”, “they went here”, and “she did that”.Read more ›


Format: Paperback

A masterly piece of work, this fictionalised true story of the eponymous Ellie is a book with two layers. The first, more obvious one, is the narration of a tale of circumstance. A story that richly shows how the smallest of decisions and the tiniest of life’s twists and turns can have major implications. How an ordinary person can slip into different and often less than desirable situations through a simple domino-ing of events that could have happened more or less to any one of us had we been in similar circumstances. Indeed at times I felt a strong empathy with Ellie precisely because I imagined that I might have done similarly in some situations had I been in her shoes. The second layer is a tale of consequences, and of how a person’s life experiences can shape their own personality, character and life situation, and then that of their children. This layer is compellingly introduced in the first few pages, therefore sensitising the reader in their journey through the remainder of the book. The adolescent Ellie is herself a product of unfortunate experiences. Some aspects of her character that were criticised by her interrogator at the start of the book and then later might nowadays have been treated more sympathetically as reactions to trauma, abuse and other events. The author, Ellie’s son, has handled these aspects, and indeed the more questionable and colourful of Ellie’s actions and behaviours, with sensitivity yet honesty, so that I waivered throughout between empathy and disapproval – an achievement of the author since no-one should be considered in black and white.
In terms of writing style, the author has managed something very well paced and never boring and I found myself wondering what the next chapter might hold, between reads.
Read more ›

Format: Kindle Edition

I should start with a disclaimer: I know Julian Gray. One should always disclose this when writing a review. But more to the point, because I know him, I also know that this extraordinary book – although written as a novel – is substantially true. Julian Gray is a pen-name, and with good reason, as this is a story that could still have the power to hurt people, even though it took place over 70 years ago; those who appear in the book are mostly now dead, but their children are not.

Interrogating Ellie is both well-researched and extremely readable. It is the story of Eloise, or Ellie, Picot (not her real name). She was born in St Helier, in the Channel Islands, in 1916. She and her brother were the illegitimate children of a teenage mother, who had been banished to Birmingham by her family. Eloise remained in Jersey. She was brought up by foster-parents, and eventually found a job as a waitress at a local hotel. In 1934 she met a fellow hotel-worker, and in 1938, having just had their first child, they moved to his home town in Austria and moved in with his family. Ellie took Austrian (actually by now Reich) citizenship. Before long, her marriage broke down, and the family kept her baby daughters. Eloise Picot was 25, alone, with no means of support, in a country of which she was nominally a national but which was actually at war with her own. But she had two things on her side – she was attractive, and she was not a fool. For the next seven years, through the war and the post-war occupation, she would live on her wits.

Ellie did – after some difficulty – return to Britain (although not to Jersey) in 1948, and in the 1950s she remarried and settled in the south of England. She had several more children, of which Gray was one

Interrogating Ellie by Julian Gray is available on Amazon 



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