Good morning readers, and a very happy Thursday to you all reading this; this review was supposed to be scheduled for next week however, I realised that both reviews for this week were books of a romantic genre, that took exactly the same line in terms of my critiques and it really felt like I was posting the same review. So, I decided to move this one and pop it on mylittlebookblog for you today because it’s nice to write you a wholly lovely review and share a special book with you.
1944 and Anna is parachuted into Normandy as a special agent working with Resistance Groups, spying on the Germans and wiring the information back to the Special Operations Executive, escaping capture and the inevitable torture that would follow.
She falls in love with Pierre, another SOE agent but finds he is not what he purports to be. Then there is the little matter of the Gestapo officer who has guessed her secret. Alone, Anna has to make some terrifying decisions to survive and to ensure the impending invasion remains secret. It is 2006 in England, where her husband has died and Anna lives alone. Her children are spying on her and plot to put her in a home so that they can sell her house for their own ends. Anna is determined to retain her independence. She falls back on her wartime skills, recruiting Nathan and his girlfriend Gemma to help her and becomes close to them as she never was with her own children.
But it is only when she returns to Normandy and confronts the ghosts of her past that she realises how the war had taken its toll on her loveless marriage and her children. She makes the ultimate sacrifice and finally finds the peace and redemption that had evaded her all these years.
So it’s a rather long blurb which normally I don’t like too much because I prefer to explore the book from a more secretive blurb however it does give a real feel of the story to come. The novel is set in two parts, the first in 1944 Normandy during WW1 and the second during 2006 in England. As the blurb writes, we follow Anna Julen as she is parachuted into Normandy as a special agent under the name of Marie-Claire Cardon. We follow her story as she attempts to blend in with her surroundings, the locals, hiding her radio and working long hours whilst trying to sneak in sending information back home. Later in part two we meet Anna again who is now ninety years old. Despite her age she rebels against her children who want to run her life and move her into a home but she will not stand for it; instead she returns to Normandy to find answers and also a little forgiveness.
So there’s a lot of plot to get your teeth into but now onto the more technical side. Firstly Chris Bridge is a really wonderful storyteller. He manages to weave the two plot lines succinctly and make the book a really intriguing and exciting narrative. I read this in around three days because I was so excited by where the narrative was going. I think his real strength as an author is seen in his creation of the world around the main character. The completely authentic reconstruction of war-time France in contrast to modern day Britain is really skilfully done. For me historical fiction is all about placing the reader some place new and this is done with skill and understanding.
This is further backed by the characters that are pulled into the narrative and the fact that throughout you’re not quite sure if you can trust any of them even Anna to some extent. She is a truly wonderful character, both gutsy and determined and also mellow and enchanting; I really adored her as a character. The book also conveys a really strong show of the authors utter love of writing I think. It has a sense of care and thoughtfulness and the constant play with the idea that you cannot presume anything about anyone is woven throughout creating a truly surprising story as a whole.
So I’ve gone on a little now but I really would recommend this book to everyone no matter your ideas on historical fiction as a genre. I think the strong writing style and the complicated used of plot and characters make this book highly appealing across the board. Bridge’s style is lyrical, evocative, descriptive and utterly captivating and throughout gave me a real insight into the lives of the characters as they were introduced. A brilliant warm book that I cannot help but recommend.