Recommended Age: 18+
Genres: Historical Drama
Tags: British, Disguise, Prison, Sisters, War, Romance
- Mature sexuality: Lightly detailed rape scene, as well as allusions to rape, kissing scenes and allusions to sex.
- Mature violence: descriptions of war, people getting shot, tortured, and imprisoned, scenes with death, sexual and physical abuse.
- Mature language: Some swearing, including F bombs, as well as verbal abuse and discrimination.
Vianne and Isabelle are sisters living through World War Two in France. Vianne’s husband has been called away to fight in the war, leaving her with their young daughter and a teaching job to keep them fed. Isabelle is young and passionate, and freshly kicked out of yet another school for her behavior. The two sisters aren’t close with each other or their father, but this war pushes them past any expectations and leaves them leaning on the people they know best.
When France is invaded, Vianne makes sacrifice after sacrifice to keep herself and her daughter alive, watching as her home is taken over and her Jewish best friend is taken away. Isabelle puts her fiery temper and innocent looks to good use and sneaks British pilots out of the country to help with the war efforts, risking her life every day for the sake of her country. These two women are so different, but both fight against the war in their own way, representing so many women’s efforts during this historical time.
The author explained the concept she developed for this story, detailing how she was amazed by how much of war efforts go unnoticed simply because they weren’t done by soldiers. While she greatly appreciates everything soldiers do for their country, what people tend to overlook is how much fighting occurs in secret. Women and even children did their part in fighting WWII, though those stories are harder to find. When cities were invaded, foreign soldiers took over peoples’ homes and livelihoods for the sake of their own army. Vianne and Isabelle show two different sides to living through WWII as French women.
The two sisters are very different, which helps show the multiple ways that women had to fight in war during this time. Vianne has a child to care for, which makes her rebellion quieter, subtler, and more dangerous. She gives every impression of being dutiful to the new rules in her village, obeying the Germans for the sake of her family. But her compassion leads her to fight for other people’s children as well, especially once her best friend and the other Jewish families are taken to concentration camps. Isabelle is younger and more temperamental than her sister, unable to stomach the idea of obedience for the sake of survival. She takes a much more drastic approach to the invasion, joining in the rebellion and sneaking prisoners out of the country. She uses her youth and beauty to appear innocent, while leading men to freedom.
The incredible strength these people show in the midst of such a dark time is inspiring, and portrays how society is ultimately motivated by love and a desire to fight for the right to live. There’s an innate desire we all have to be someone great and do remarkable things with our life, whether it’s protect our family or country, or make the world a better place by spreading strength, knowledge, and joy. The characters of this book are not perfect, and their moments of heroism are balanced by flaws, but that only makes them more heartfelt and human.
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