This was originally going to be 3 stars, but I loved the second half of the book so I averaged it out. I’ve always loved historical fiction novels with a past/present storyline such as Sarah’s Key, and The Paris Seamstress, which were both set in the same time period and location, but from very different perspectives than this one. While this isn’t the best historical fiction novel I’ve ever read, There were some parts of it which I really enjoyed, and I’ve never really learned that much about the French Resistance which seems less explored than other parts of WWII.
I generally enjoy dual perspectives, but I have to admit that I really cared much more about Adalyn’s chapters than Alice’s. One of the things that bothered me most about this book was that Alice’s voice seemed much younger than sixteen, which is how old the description said she was. One particular line stood out more than the rest:
“Now I feel guilty for all the times I complained to Gram about having too much homework-look what she was going through at my age!”
I’m sixteen, and this just seems like something someone much younger would say. Even if someone did not know exactly what happened in their family’s past, the fact that her grandmother never wanted to talk about should have told her something. That point aside, even if Alice was sixteen, that seems young to have her own say on what happens to an apartment her grandmother left to her. I don’t know the laws in France, but I feel like Alice would have to be older to be able to decide that. The fact that Paul was in college already didn’t feel right to me.
On a completely different note however, I did like how her perspective showed the ways that history can become lost or muddled over time if there are not people around who can say what really happened. I also did love how everything was eventually connected in the end. Alice’s fairy dynamics were also interesting to read, and I think that the mental health aspects were important and prevalent.
I loved Adalyn. She seemed so much more like a genuine character to me and so much more relatable (despite her living in the past). Her situation seemed like one that many people at the time would be in, wanting to help, but not wanting to hurt their families. As a result, she gets involved in dangerous resistance work to save the country from the Nazis, knowing that she is risking everything to do so, including her own life and her relationship with her family.
While her parents believe that the Nazis are wrong, they do not really do anything to resist and her mother even openly fraternizes with them on several occasions because she is in denial about the war. However, her sister Chloe, who is Alice’s grandmother, is a part of the zazous, a group which mocks the Nazis by how they dress and act as a form of resistance. It was so difficult to see the way that Adalyn’s residence work affected the relationship between the sisters, because she was not allowed to tell them anything, they assumed she got along with the Germans and spent time with them because she wanted to, not because she was spying.
I found her strength and determination incredible, and her resolve to do what was necessary even if it cost her so much showed how people at this time really did all they could, and without people like them, there may not have been as many survivors.
However, the most impactful part of the book for me was the ending. Somehow I wasn’t expecting it even though I knew it was a possibility.
“Did you make it here okay?
The trains ran smoothly, Luc.
The trains ran smoothly.”