Amandine - Marlena De Blasi It was hard to get into this book, but I really did like it at the end! The beginning is confusing because the author expresses thoughts of individuals in italics. Whan you begin you don't know whose thoughts you are following. When you come to know the different characters there is no difficulty knowing whose thoughts are being projected. I wasn't until the last 3/4 of the book that I could understand why the author chose to use this technique. It is the thoughts of the characters that play a central role in the book. If a reader does not like such an introspective approach, I would not recommend this book to them. It is hard to find one quote to explain this because you have to know the people to completely understand, but I think the following does illustrate the introspective nature central to the book:

"So fickle are the convent girls, how can she know what word or action of hers might relight the antipathy? Further, she reasons Paul is constant. Her hate hurts more, but Amandine can count on it. So who is the greater foe, and how can one tell? And what if one can't? The mystery swims and dives and leaps about in her, and she thinks it might continue to do so for some time. Perhaps forever. No, it is hardly the bonhomie that pleases Amandine the most but rather two other spoils of the evening: the first is the thought that she might not be wicked after all and the other a sentiment more difficult to comprehend and to name, is the beginning of her understanding of her own grit"

Furthemore there is a subdued atmosphere to the entire book. There is a distance between the reader and the characters. Not only the "thoughts" but also the descriptive style chosen by the author reinforce this aspect. Another quote:

"Along our route we find burned farmhouses, new graves. Slaughtered animals. Silence. The hoche take the wheat and the potatoes from the field, fruit from the trees, wine from the cellars, they take horses and petrol and autos. They take women when they can. Mostly they can. They leave the lavender along the paths to the farmhouse doors though. And the rosebushes. Gentleman conquistadors. And what the hoche don't take the French keep. To themselves. Go away. All those hissed voices from behind the wide warped doors of the landed gentry. From behind the toile de Jouy drapes of the bourgeoise in the towns. Go away.

The narrator in this instant is omniscient. The author changes who is speaking to fit the message to be conveyed. Particularly in the beginning this feels uncomfortable, but it enhances the mood and fits the message conveyed. It takes awhile to get use to this! I liked it in the end. The author uses many French words. Not all are translated. If you know French you will enjoy this.

The plot is filled with action, but always the telling is distant. There is an emotional barrier put up between the characters and the readers and only at the end do you feel you have torn the barrier down. Without the resistance, you wouldn't feel the accomplishment you do if when you feel you truly know the characters.

The very, very best of the book, and it is utterly heart-wrenching, is Amandine's travels through occupied France! For me this depiction of the French people's struggles under German occupation was brought vividly to life. Exceptionally well done! All the small mundane details of the French people's suffering. The author has a talent for describing the beauty of a meal, of freshly baked bread, of fresh produce. Such descriptions felt very wonderful to people who had little enjoyment in their lives. The enjoyment of such bread or a stew or a fragrant jam brought happiness in the dismal despair of the times.

What Amandine lived through from her birth to her teens is brought poignantly to life. My difficulties with this book at the beginning were well worth fighting to reach the end. The beginning felt like a two star book, the end a four star book. My heart wants to give this four stars, but my head says average the two and four to a three star. That is what I have done! I may go back later and change it to four stars.... Read this book to learn about this wonderful little girl Amandine and to better understand France during its occupation during WW2. I also very much liked the ending!

Thank you Tara for sening this to me!

I am reading this simply because I adored That Summer in Sicily: A Love Story by the same author. Also I like stories that take place in France! I am a bit worried b/c this book is pure fiction, while the other wasn't. I think it is harder to write pure fiction as convincingly as that which depicts real life experiences. Actually I rarely read several books by the same author. I prefer testing new authors, but in this case I simply HAD to try another. Will it be as good? Tara didn't like this at all........ but each reader has different likes and dislikes!