All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

About the book

Marie-Laure has been blind since the age of six. Her father builds a perfect miniature of their Paris neighbourhood so she can memorize it by touch and navigate her way home. But when the Nazis invade, father and daughter flee with a dangerous secret. Werner is a German orphan, destined to labour in the same mine that claimed his father’s life, until he discovers a knack for engineering. His talent wins him a place at a brutal military academy, but his way out of obscurity is built on suffering. At the same time, far away in a walled city by the sea, an old man discovers new worlds without ever setting foot outside his home. But all around him, impending danger closes in. Doerr’s combination of soaring imagination and meticulous observation is electric.

Reviewed by Fareham 5:30

Read this book! Read it now. It is wonderful – for many of us the best book we’ve read.
The descriptive writing is haunting. Each short chapter is so beautiful part of you wants to linger. The story is interesting, particularly how he weaves the tow key charcaters’ lives. The book is full of well-rounded characters that you care about.
The book provoked a good discussion on the morality and horrors of war – especially useful as seen from French and German perspectives.
This is a haunting story. We would definitely read all books by this author.

Star rating: *****

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Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky

book cover

About the book

In 1941, Irène Némirovsky sat down to write a book that would convey the magnitude of what she was living through by evoking the domestic lives and personal trials of the ordinary citizens of France. Némirovsky’s death in Auschwitz in 1942 prevented her from seeing the day, sixty-five years later, that the existing two sections of her planned novel sequence, Suite Française, would be rediscovered and hailed as a masterpiece.
Set during the year that France fell to the Nazis, Suite Française falls into two parts. The first is a brilliant depiction of a group of Parisians as they flee the Nazi invasion; the second follows the inhabitants of a small rural community under occupation. Suite Française is a novel that teems with wonderful characters struggling with the new regime. However, amidst the mess of defeat, and all the hypocrisy and compromise, there is hope. True nobility and love exist, but often in surprising places.

Reviewed by  Enjoying Books Reading Group:

Unusual book – wonderful prose, a great insight into French life during the war. Beautifully drawn characters.

Star rating: ****

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Labyrinth by Kate Mosse

About the book

July 2005. In the Pyrenees mountains near Carcassonne, Alice, a volunteer at an archaeological dig, stumbles into a cave and makes a startling discovery-two crumbling skeletons, strange writings on the walls, and the pattern of a labyrinth.
Eight hundred years earlier, on the eve of a brutal crusade that will rip apart southern France, a young woman named Alais is given a ring and a mysterious book for safekeeping by her father. The book, he says, contains the secret of the true Grail, and the ring, inscribed with a labyrinth, will identify a guardian of the Grail. Now, as crusading armies gather outside the city walls of Carcassonne, it will take a tremendous sacrifice to keep the secret of the labyrinth safe.

Reviewed by  New Forest/Waterside U3A Reading Group:

An excellent novel needing a fair amount of reading time and serious concentration. With several themes, a fresh look at French history, the brutal behaviour of the Roman Church (Christian?), another consideration of the Grail myth and the idea that personality can be sustained on biological or perhaps spiritual paths, all make it a thrilling mystery. This is story-telling at its best and a source for serious discussion.

Star rating:****

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Deep France by Celia Brayfield

About the book

Deep France is the diary of a writer’s year in a tiny French village, trying to meet her deadlines when a good thunderstorm could blow out the computer and there were always artichokes to pick. It’s a walk in teh swashbuckling footsteps of The Three Musketeers and King Henri IV, full of funny and perceptive anecdotes about the year in which France had to face the euro, the World Cup and Le Pen’s presidential campaign.

Reviewed by BBC Boaters Book Club:

It was considered to be: a poorly constructed book written by a smug author. Not everyone finished it.

Star rating: * – **

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