Suspense and intrigue, but nothing so desperately out of the ordinary in this war story - and yet, it didn't matter. There was so much tactile and sensual beauty in the words and in the structure they built - this tale felt utterly unique.
I was pulled in. It was if there had been no other family trying to survive a devastating war before. There had been no resistance groups or behaviors before this novel. There had been none of the painful irony of children playing adults in an underground that feels like a naive game of pretend. Never before have mothers hidden their true selves from their children in order to protect them. And it seems as if there has never been a daughter, in all of recent literature, that has found compassion for her monstrous mother, too late - much too late.
Joanne Harris has skillfully woven the present day with the dark days of World War II in the Loire Valley. A father is killed in battle and a mother, battling debilitating migraines and her own personal judgments, is left to keep her family alive, waiting for the war to be over.
The farms and orchards are the mother's sole pleasure and cooking and preserving her art. But she also has a scrapbook she keeps, mingling recipes, truths, and secrets. Her youngest child possesses that book, and also the key to events that have strangled the village.
There are twists, deceptions, and heroics that tumble into a fictional world that feels all too real.
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