Obviously, writing a blog like this I enjoy reading (or at least starting books, carrying them round, collecting more…) I like to review books , and if people entrust me with books for review I am really pleased to read and comment on them. It is a great way of reading books that perhaps I would not choose at first sight, and it is an interesting exercise to sum up a book in three hundred words or whatever rather than just returning it to the shelves. So, if you want a book reviewed…
The first thing to say is, I enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would! Set variously in London, France and Africa, I thought that having very little knowledge about two of those places would mean that I would not find it interesting, but this novel conveys a good sense of place and people as well as time.
The plot of this novel is a little complex, and to say too much would give several twists away, but to be honest they are clearly signposted. The main characters are seen in London, various parts of France, and a notably realistic section in Africa which deals well with the challenging conditions, the heat and the different pace of life. The people in this book do fall in love very quickly, and I would have some issues with the dispatch of two women when inconvenient to have them living. I like the short chapters, as they add considerably to the readability of the book, but there are some sections that would benefit from a good edit to balance the book overall. The narrative flows well, but there are some sections or descriptions which do slow down the progress of the novel to little effect, though I did enjoy finding out about the growing of grapes for wine and the scorpion incident has the hallmarks of non-fiction! Some characters, friends of the protagonists, are mentioned and described but are never finished, so I must admit they are a little distracting. For example, a good friend of Annie is introduced but never developed, just mentioned in passing as existing in the latter part of the book. I learnt far more about General de Gaulle than I expected, but not so much about Churchill!
Sometimes the books multi location,multi time becomes a little confusing, but overall it makes excellent sense. I felt that the ending is very satisfactory, if very convenient, and reflects the book as a whole. The various religious missions come out of this book very well, as do some clergy. It is not a work of great literature, but it is all the more readable for that. The main characters are good, if sometimes dropped a little quickly. There are some interesting insights into history, but not detailed descriptions of battle, so it would appeal to those keen to read a novel set in the mid twentieth century without lots of war detail.
This is not a book that will turn up in every book shop, but it is worth seeking out.