|All That We Have Lost by Suzanne Fortin|
My review today is for All That We Have Lost by Suzanne Fortin, a dual timeline novel set in a small village in Brittany.
In alternating chapters, we follow two very different women as they cope with life-changing events. Eighteen-year-old Simone is angry at the hardships her family are forced to cope with under the German occupation during the Second World War. Her brother Pierre is ill, but they don’t have the money to pay for the doctor’s visits or the medicine required. There is little food for her mother to sell in her shop and everyone is hungry, except the German soldiers who have taken over her village.
In the present day, young widow Imogen forces herself to learn to live again, as she takes the brave decision to realise the French dream she shared with her husband. While searching for a simple cottage in Brittany, an abandoned chateau steals her heart, but the more she tries to discover about its history and the fire that destroyed part of it, the more the locals shut her out.
The characters in this book were strong and likable, with many of them surprising me as the stories progressed. Simone had difficult decisions to make, including knowing who she could trust, but her loyalty, independence and fighting spirit were what shone out for me. Imogen also needed to learn who to trust and whose stories to believe as she attempted to discover the dark secrets surrounding the chateau. Imogen’s character won my heart from the beginning, and I was as intrigued by Laurent’s story and air of mystery in the present day, as I was by what would happen to Simone in 1944.
I am a big fan of dual timeline, and this book ticked all the boxes for me. Each chapter gave just enough to draw me in deeper, before switching me back to the other storyline. It was one of those books that kept me guessing and quite quickly I reached the dilemma of not wanting to put it down, but not wanting to rush through it either. The benefit of a well-written dual timeline is that it draws out the enjoyment longer and this book was a very good at that.
In places this book is heart-breaking, in others, heart-warming and it left me with a huge smile on my face.
If you enjoy historical fiction and love a book with a good pinch of French magic for the broken hearted, I am sure this book will be a great accompaniment to a cosy autumn evening.