The City of Tears by Kate Mosse – an immense book of French historical events seen through the eyes of women

The City of Tears by Kate Moss

This is a powerful book of historical fiction. A second book in the Burning Chambers series, this immense book has just been published in paperback. Returning to France in 1572, this book stands alone as it recalls the major characters with implied backgrounds. They are men and women, children, who represent two sides of the religious movements in sixteenth century France. Journeying from the idyllic countryside to the heaving, overpopulated city of Paris, it sweeps onwards into Amsterdam and beyond, where people vacillate between wanting to live peacefully together following their own preferences in religious practice, to condemning those who have opposing views. Politics and religion are a heady mix, and in this tightly written, well paced novel, an extremely dangerous one. The proposed marriage of two royal families, the joining of ambitious dynasties, is supposed to be witnessed as the raising of new hope, but instead leads to trouble for many present. Seen through the perspective of one fictional relatively wealthy family group, and especially the women, it begins to appear that not everyone is going to survive, let alone remain together. Ambitions, the desire for revenge and so much more seem to come together against those hoping for peace and tolerance. This is a powerful book, and I am pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it. 

The book opens in May and June 1572. An older woman, Marikan, prays for guidance. Past tragic memories and a present dilemma leave her uncertain and troubled. Should she reveal what she remembers, what little she knows, or should she preserve a silence against her duty? In a way a dilemma is solved, and tragedy is set in train. At a far away place, Chateau de Puivert in Languedoc, a younger woman, Minou Reydon- Joubert, the Chatelane considers the troubled past and the seemingly peaceful present. Her father, her aunt, her sister and brother are all present, together with her husband Piet, daughter Marta and small son Jean-Jacques. Her husband is  strangely silent, but essentially it is a loving relationship, probably after the traumatic events as recorded in the first book. It is a special day, as Minou has decided that they will all go to Paris to witness the marriage of Marguerite de Valois to King Henri of Narvarre. This is an important and unexpected joining of two houses by marriage, houses that have long been divided by religion. Most of Minou’s family follow the Huguenots in religious practice, but many inhabitants of France follow the tradition of strict Catholicism. By the time of this book the Wars of Religion have raged through France for ten years, and as in any civil war, neighbours and even families have been divided. With this marriage it is to be hoped that peace and reconciliation will be achieved, but with vested interests on both sides, nothing is certain. There are those for whom religious differences  are almost excuses for violent action, and there are worrying signs of danger even in the countryside, and definitely in the overpopulated streets of Paris. 

This book, like others produced by Mosse, tackles the troubles of French history head on, and is certainly not a gentle read. The writing is phenomenally strong, featuring determined individuals of every age and background. An informative historical note is included, and this book uses fictional characters as a means of conveying huge truths of the time. It is an admirable and big book in every sense, and I recommend it as a really memorable reading experience.       

Loved by a Gentleman by Alizee Kay – a special novel of a contemporary woman’s life

Alizee Kay

Loved by a Gentleman by Alizee Kay

This is an impressive debut by an author who has succeeded in creating memorable characters in a lovely readable novel. Focusing on a situation that she evidently knows while working in hospitality, she has produced a book that conveys something of the pride in a job. Alizee Kay has also been ambitious in setting her novel just before and during the 2020 lockdown, and managing to deal with a time that many other fiction writers have avoided. Her central character, Beatrice, is described with great sensitivity and understanding. The setting is lovely, swapping between a great house hotel and Beatrice’s own home. Both are described so well that it is possible to visualise the grand view from the front of the big building and something of the change to a limited setting during lockdown. Kay handles the first whispers of danger in early 2020 very well. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this special book.

When the book begins, Beatrice acknowledges that she still has strong feelings for Logan, her previous boss. Not that she has seen him for over a year; she is now the boss of her own hotel. She is very successful, winning prizes within the industry. She understands her staff, willing to build them up in terms of confidence, in timely praise and much more. Across the hotel lobby she sees Arian, a young man who seizes her attention. She is more than keen to offer him a job: he is confident, effortlessly polite and keen to impress. He seems the perfect fit for a job at the hotel, always keen to help, they are soon having conversations that extend beyond work, and Beatrice’s best friend notices a difference in her immediately. For all that they become close, the fact remains that he is married, with children. As news of a virus begins to come from China, Beatrice realises that her work, all that which gives her life meaning in many ways, may have to change, and that her reason for seeing Arian may disappear as well. 

The style of the writing is extremely careful and readable. Kay raises some valid points about contemporary life through this story. The main one is the loneliness experienced by single people, especially women. This theme has been featured by writers over the last few years, specifically how women work hard and may well be extremely successful at work, but find it difficult to form relationships outside the office or wherever. Adult loneliness has been a problem for some time, but of course was exacerbated by lockdown when many people were confined to their homes, and not even able to work if it could not be completed remotely, like Beatrice. Many people found themselves without purpose or direction, and I think Kay has caught that concept well. This is a worthy debut and shows real promise in terms of its pace, overall composition and thoughtful response to the feelings of contemporary women in these difficult days.   

At Death’s Door by Anna Legat – A mystery in Bishops Well proves a challenge for Maggie and Sam

At Death’s Door by Anna Legat

This is a “cosy” murder mystery set in the traditional English village, but one that suddenly becomes much bigger as one character recalls the mysteries of her life which are on a far wider stage. Those who read the first book in this series will recognize some of the characters, but this novel stands alone in its narrative. Maggie, who sometimes takes over the otherwise third person narration to reveal what she thinks, is a wonderful character with a special talent, almost a burden, which helps with investigations in the village of Bishops Well. When combined with the restraining personality of Samuel Dee, neighbour, good friend and confidante who can bring his legal experience and knowledge to a situation, they form an impressive team. In this book he must introduce the strong character of his mother Deirdre for support and her cooking skills to back him up – as Maggie is thrown into confusion and some despair by events close to home and further away. There is still humour, a number of secrets and some interesting food options in this book of contemporary mystery and much more. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this very good novel.

The book opens with a somewhat fed-up Sam joining an archaeological dig in a local spot in unpromising weather. When a body is discovered, there is celebration as the assumption is that they have found the Celtic remains that they sought. It is, however, immediately apparent to an on-site pathologist that this is a much more recently buried body, and one that needs to be identified. Maggie for various reasons offers her ideas – and more – to the police in the form of a rather testy DI Gillian Marsh, as well as chatting with someone most concerned with the probable crime. As the various residents of the village discuss the potential wrongdoers, old memories emerge of secret departures and assumptions made about a young woman many years before. Maggie meanwhile must cope with the outcome of a situation that has been in the background for slightly less time. It is a welcome distraction when she is drafted in as a supply teacher to a local school and discovers a young man who has issues. Sam is meanwhile finding his feet in the village after leaving London. He has had a traumatic time, and it is to his credit that he tries so hard to help his friend Maggie, even when he wonders why when she behaves in such memorable ways.

This is a book which I found easy to immerse myself in, even when the narrative took a surprising direction. Legat is a sensitive writer as well as providing an element of humour, especially where Maggie is concerned. She is so good at giving us Maggie’s slightly chaotic view of life throughout this book, as well as balancing a mystery which involves many local people and challenges to her family. The setting of her cottage and the other elements of Bishops Well is so effective that it is almost possible to visualise the buildings as well as the essence of village life. This is the second book that I have read in “The Shires Mysteries” series and I am certainly looking forward to the next one.   

Resistance – Book 1, Liberty by Eilidh McGinness – A story of Occupied France

Resistance – Book 1 Liberty by Eilidh McGinness

This is a dramatic novel of a significant time and place in twentieth century history, Occupied France during the Second World War. The stories of resistance by “official” groups and determined individuals is told from the fictional experiences of two young people, and it is their bravery that this book largely celebrates against a background of brutality and betrayal. Sabine Faure works on the family farm outside a fictional village of Saint-Antoine-de Double in Dordogne in South-West France. As befits someone who has grown up in the area, she has an excellent knowledge of the people and places, the routes and secrets of the mainly wooded area. The same cannot be said for the charismatic Herisson, who has to learn how to cope in an environment that is at once bountiful in hiding places and food but is also filled with danger as various German groups seek to hunt down anyone who opposes them. The other characters that fill this book, whether quietly trying to resist the occupation or seemingly willing to accept the status quo, are also drawn as real people. The pace of the book is admirable, as the two young people encounter potentially life changing challenges. I was pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this impressive book.

The book opens in July 1941 when Herisson is being smuggled in a wine barrel by sympathetic men out of the Occupied Zone of France. He has abandoned his home and any family to find and join a Resistance group, being determined to fight for a free France and a Communist dream. He is joined by three friends, all young men determined to risk everything to fight. As they walk towards a village in which they have been told is a contact, they are a little frightened by the unusually dense woodland that surrounds the road. Meanwhile Sabine is working on the family farm, resenting her peasant status and wishing she could do more than prepare and deliver cheeses. Meeting a good friend, she is shocked to be given a mission for the local resistance which she is uniquely able to complete. While keen to take action, she is painfully aware that her overbearing father is keen to keep his head down and not endanger the family at whatever cost. She knows that her actions will endanger not only herself but many people around her, but she is still determined to embrace the opportunity. Her first meeting with Herisson is not a positive experience for either, as both realise that so much depends on absolute secrecy, and he and his friends have made a lot of assumptions about how easy it will be to become involved. Indeed, their first encounter in the woods with a group is not something that they could have predicted, and they are swiftly left in no doubt as to the realities of resisting the German forces.

This is a novel which is firmly anchored in the realities of communities largely at the mercy of occupying forces. It is not the world of British agents though there is a supporting role in the background; most of those who are active in the operations and deliveries are aware of the possible impact on their communities of discovery and reprisals. This is a well-paced novel of those who risked so much behind the lines, with a solid base of research which never intrudes into the narrative. I recommend this book to anyone who wants a fictionalized picture of the French people under occupation and all those who tried to make a difference, often at great personal cost.  

Should I Tell You? by Jill Mansell – an escapist gem of community, friendship and much more

Posting on the first day of the tour!

Should I Tell You? by Jill Mansell

A contemporary view of a community, this well written, witty book is a genuine escapist gem. Set in a fictional town in Cornwall, it features some fascinating characters who find themselves in complicated situations, some of whom are searching for resolutions that may not exist. While three relatively young people are at the heart of the story in some respects, it is often their relationships with older characters that are also really satisfying. Very different people, brilliantly described, encounter challenges in this novel that are continually surprising and always interesting.

Amber, Lachlan and Raffaele were all fostered at some point by Teddy and May, and it is there that their relationship began. May has now died, and the three friends are worried about Teddy, who seems to have found a new friend in Olga, who is younger, more vibrant and perhaps more acquisitive than they would like. Meanwhile Raffaele is saddened by his recent break up with the dynamic Vee, who seems to have changed from the lovable woman he first met. Peggy is an amazing character, but is concerned about her shy son Benjie who seems to be finding life difficult. As Mansell describes the colours, clothes and setting of a few weeks by the sea, I was carried along in a wonderful haze of dialogue and events that I thoroughly enjoyed. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this book, and I would recommend it.

The book opens with an incident in the life of Lachlan, talented chef and known for his brief liaisons with women. It is one of the reasons that Amber, who has been attracted to him for years, will not mention her true feelings, not wanting to threaten their deep friendship over a brief affair. They are brought together by their concern over Teddy. After a period of mourning, Amber had succeeded in persuading him to go on a cruise. Lachlan is concerned because he seems to have found a person to spend time with who is the complete opposite of his late wife May, the dramatically dressed Olga. Lachlan particularly jumps to the conclusion that she is only attracted by Teddy’s evident wealth and generosity. Amber then thinks back to her first encounter with Raffaele and Lachlan, the two boys brought together by their difficult backgrounds and experiences in the care system. It soon becomes evident that the relationship between the three of them means that they try to protect each other from all trouble, feeling deep sympathy for each other even though they are now successful adults. Their encounters with Teddy and the remarkable Olga, as well as the now challenging Vee, shows that they are a thoughtful group who value each other immensely. Peggy, wealthy and dynamic, has insisted in helping Lachlan set up his successful restaurant in Lanrock, is instrumental in improving Amber’s stained glass business, and is convinced that her own art needs to find its true audience. Her son Benjie cannot always keep up with his mother’s outrageous ideas, and finds that she will do many things in order to get her way. 

Overall, this is a combination of stories and themes that provide a fascinating read. There are twists that I did not foresee, events that move everyone one along, experiences that are well described. I really enjoyed reading this well written book, and will definitely find others by this talented author.      

Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels – Harlow Carr Garden Centre Bookshop

Enter via the gardening section…

To find a bookshop!
Studying some of the stock! ( I was wearing a mask!)

There is also a garden…

Bookshop Tour on Four Wheels – Harlow Carr Garden Centre, Harrogate


01423 565418


Crag Lane Harrogate North Yorkshire HG3 1QB






Open Daily: 09:30 – 18:00

For those of us who would list “visiting bookshops” as one of our hobbies, the last few years have been difficult. Even when restrictions have eased, and we may have felt confident to venture out, not all of us have been able to get into bookshops owing to mobility problems and challenging access. In this series I celebrate the shops that I can actually enter and get round on Morgan, my trusty powerchair. 

Today I am featuring a shop within a shop – a garden centre at RHS Harlow Carr. We actually first discovered it in 2020, when meeting in the gardens for a legal, socially distanced picnic with our adult offspring who we had not seen for months. Venturing into the garden centre I expected the usual – piles of gardening books, maybe a few puzzle books, the usual thing. I entered via the Gardening section, only to discover that the area was in fact a small but well stocked bookshop, with new fiction and non fiction, an older collection of fiction with many interesting titles, biography, history and even specific crime fiction. After months of ordering books on the phone and online it was lovely to actually be able to handle and choose books in real life! As you can see from the photos, the books are well organised in a relatively spacious designated area so my more recent trip was very enjoyable. There are now several entrances to the building, all on the flat,  – there is a slope at one side of the bookshop which is said not to be wheelchair friendly – I could manage it but it is mentioned in the accessibility statement.I am not sure who is in charge of book buying, but there is an excellent selection available whenever I visit.  Thank you Harlow Carr!

Katharine Parr – The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir – the final novel in the Six Tudor Queens series

Katherine Parr – The Sixth Wife by Alison Weir

Katharine Parr married Henry VIII in 1543, and was the wife that survived him. In many ways that has been the only thing known about a woman who had arguably the best outcome in the marriage stakes, but that would be to ignore so much about the woman she was before, how she coped during their marriage, and what happened when the increasingly difficult king died. This book recounts, with the usual research which the author has always been committed to, the facts, but also so much more. Katharine’s early life, her unusually advanced education for a woman of her time, and basically her calm exterior throughout is brought to life in this novel. Told from her viewpoint, there are the revelations of the royal and court life that she would have found out, and probably been surprised about, the four husbands she had married in her relatively short life, and her relationships with other people. It is full of the colour of the dresses she wore, the palaces and places where she lived and visited, and the complex political and religious conditions in which she lived. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this classic historical novel. 

Katharine is shown as a capable person from childhood. Her father died in a plague that had sent the King and his entourage fleeing from London – the fact that Henry was already on the throne from her before her birth and earliest memories is somehow remarkable. It seems she had a capable, educated and devout mother, whose decision to send her to family together with her siblings was a wise one, as her own family were to be vital supports throughout her life, even as many of her actions were to benefit them. She received the sort of classical education that boys would normally benefit from, and throughout her life she was able to maintain a genuine interest in theological matters as well as manage households when necessary. An arranged marriage when she was sixteen to Edward, the son and heir of Sir Thomas Burgh of Gainsborough looked to be an advantageous one, but meant that she had to leave her much loved childhood home. It was a difficult and brief marriage according to Weir, her father in law being brutal and her young husband having a difficult secret. Disappointed in her marriage and at her husband’s early death, she took time to recover before marrying a widower with older children. His role in the royal court and unrest in the north of England place Katherine in fear of losing everything one more than one occasion. Throughout her second marriage she managed well with her household, her step children and the challenges of life with an affectionate man. It was only as he became ill that she met a man she could truly love, the charismatic Thomas Seymour. She genuinely tried to disguise the passion she felt which seemed to be more than returned, as she nursed her dying husband John, Lord Latimer. In the meantime she happened to meet the king, now an older man, broken down as he saw it by his sad marital experiences, most recently by the teenage Katheryn Howard. While she would love to marry Thomas, it is deemed more expedient to marry a king who had chosen to condemn at least two of his previous wives to death. Her own religious beliefs suddenly become a dangerous part of her life, and may well endanger her very life. 

This is a book where the life of a woman in dangerous times is looked at in intense detail. Katharine is shown as an intelligent woman who chose to do her duty by her family rather than her own inclinations, and was capable enough to survive many challenges in all four of her marriages. Weir has written a fictionalised biography that offers so much depth to a life which is often just labelled “Survived”. Katharine had a difficult life with the men who found affection for her, and it is perhaps a tragedy that her own love was denied to her for so long, then proved to be difficult. This is probably a definitive fictional biography of a woman of great significance in many ways in the lives of Henry’s heirs, who managed a difficult balance of faith and self preservation during her third and most famous marriage, and took delight in some of the aspects of wealthy family lives.       

Hotel Portofino by J. P. O’Connell – a multi- layered enthralling historical novel of an Italian hotel in difficult times

Hotel Portofino by J. P. O’Connell

This is a tremendous historical novel which could well be the start of a very successful series based on multiple characters and various themes. Set in a select hotel on the Italian coast in 1924, every character has a backstory and motivations which are explored to a certain extent, and much is hinted at in this novel, labelled “Volume 1” in my copy. It has already been adapted for television, and certainly the writing is very visual. Much is made of the setting, from the beautifully decorated rooms in the hotel, the product of the taste and design of Bella, the owner, to the coastal scenery of beaches, caves, rocks and harbours. The hot weather is tempered by the storms that bring back memories to those who were at the Front eight years before, and the rainstorms that can make people seem defeated by the elements. The gathering storms of the rise of facism even in a small town is not just theoretical, but a personal danger to some individuals, and a danger of ruin to others. The relationships between the characters are not just romantic, though there are strong elements of that; there are also complex connections which are perhaps hinted at rather than made explicit. Nothing and no one is simple and straightforward, each character is complex and given real depth. Overall this is a multi – layered book which I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review.  

As the book opens Bella is preparing the Epsom Suite for some important guests, but it is also important to note that all those staying have some special consideration. The Drummond – Wards’ are of special importance to Bella and her family.The mother, Julia, is a ex – love of Cecil, Bella’s aristocratic but feckless husband, while the daughter Rose is being considered as a potential husband for her son Lucian. Lucian is a scarred survivor from the recent War, a complex young man interested in but not dedicated to art. His friend Nish is a doctor who helped Lucian survive his grievous injuries suffered in battle; his physical wounds and his mental scars will continue to mark his life. Bella has brought her daughter Alice with her to Italy, a young widow with a daughter Lottie. Alice was influenced into a strong Christan faith when first confronted by grief, and it has affected her world view. Other characters emerge throughout the book as more guests arrive and become established. One of my favourites is the complex Lady Latchmere, whose true personality will only emerge with the gentle approach of a fascinated Bella. 

Throughout the season which marks the main beginning of the hotel there are challenges which emerge among the characters who are established in their roles in the story. Lucian is not immediately convinced that he wishes to be with Rose to the exclusion of other people; he is connected to a local woman who is very different, and becomes attracted to a young woman with a difficult past and who is deceptively thoughtful. There is the dramatic element of demands from a local corrupt official on the very existence of the hotel, the danger of local politics in other ways, and other pressures on Bella from various sources. The writing is dramatic, but well balanced and never descends into melodrama. This is an account of the life of a community over a few weeks, which refers in itself to the works of Christie and others, and is truly enthralling. I found I was drawn in and struggled to put this novel down once engaged. I recommend it on many levels, and look forward to any possible future instalments. 

The Chianti Flask by Marie Belloc Lowndes – an unusual 1934 novel reprinted in the British Library Crime Classics series

The type of bottle in question apparently!

The Chianti Flask by Marie Belloc Lowdnes

This intriguing novel was first published in 1934 from the prolific pen of a writer who has produced a ”book (which is) in essence a psychological study written from a feminist perspective” as Martin Edwards points out in his informative Intoduction to this British Library Crime Classic reprint. It picks an unusual perspective for a crime novel. The poisoning is past, a man is dead, and the book opens with the trial of his quiet widow for murder. This book not only records the latter part of the trial, but also the aftermath for those who were most concerned in the matter. It combines a mystery which seems to revolve around a flask of wine and its whereabouts, a woman for whom life seems to be fated to constant interest despite or maybe because of her reserved nature, and the nature of  friendship and love. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this unusual Golden Age of Crime novel. 

The trial in which Laura Dousland stands accused of murdering her older husband Fordish seems to hang on the evidence of an Italian servant Angelo Terugi. Brought in as the latest whim of the exacting Fordish, he is unhappily closely questioned on what exactly happened to a Chianti flask which once held the wine that his master insisted on accompanying his evening meal on a tray. The servant admits that he had designs on the contents as enjoying the wine himself, but that he cannot account for what happened to the missing twenty fourth bottle that went unreturned to the supplier. The importance of the wine bottle is that it is generally supposed to have contained the poison that killed the man. Throughout the trial Laura has sat quietly, almost impassively, as if the very real danger of a guilty verdict and the gallows did not concern her. Fortunately she has an able and experienced representative in Sir Joseph Molloy, who has many skills in terms of strong cross questioning and selecting witnesses who are well prepared to say helpful things in the defence of his client. From the account of the trial Fordish emerges as a jealous man, aggressive towards any visitor, and of whom even his personal servant says “Yes, sir, for my master he love money very, very much”.  The first doctor on the scene at the discovery of the death is of no help to the defence, but a second doctor, a younger man of medical research, reveals how the deceased seemed to be fascinated with the nature of the poison which was in fact used. Thus the very real possibility of sucicide is raised. Further evidence is brought in support of Laura; her ex employer and great friend Alice Hayward speaks of Laura’s character and how she had at first refused Fordish’s offer of marriage despite her lonely situation and unexciting prospects. Alice in fact states that she had “strongly advised her to accept his offer of marriage”, despite the fact that she admits him to be eccentric, and he had threatened suicide if Laura did not agree to marry him. The trial proceeds to its conclusion, and in some respects the novel begins from that point. 

This book has much to say on the marriage at the centre of the mystery, but also other relationships which influence the eventual outcomes. I found the small details, like that Laura had to spend her own money on housekeeping in the early days of her marriage, and that subsequently was refused money even to pay her circulating library subscription, fascinating. The settings in which the characters find themselves in has much to offer in the tone of the novel, from the house and garden stuffed with auction finds by the miserly husband, to the opulence of a bedroom in which one of the characters fails to find sanctuary. This is an unusual novel which has much to say about women and their expectations of life at the time, while concealing the mystery of a vital piece of evidence. It is subtle, clever, and certainly an alternative to male dominated novels of detection of the time.   

The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton – an historical novel of a brave woman in the Second World War

The Postmistress of Paris by Meg Waite Clayton

This is an absolutely enthralling historical novel based on a true heroine of the Second World War, an American heiress living in France. In this novel, Nanee is a young woman who enjoys flying her own plane, enjoying her substantial inherited fortune in France following the death of her much loved father, and the company of her dog Dagobert. She lives alone and has many friends, especially among the artistic community of Paris, which has recently increased owing to the political unrest in Germany as Hitler sweeps to power. Her choice to remain in France as the War comes closer reflects what many other foreign nationals did for various reasons, but it soon becomes obvious that she will stay to help, to make a difference to those who have real need and few if any choices. Based on the very real Mary Jayne Gold who worked with a journalist, Varian Fry, to smuggle refugees from France, this novel puts Nanee in a fictional context with others who are involved in the dangerous process, where discovery could lead to arrest and worse. Edouard Moss is a young photographer who has already escaped from Germany as an artist and a Jew, bringing his daughter, the remarkable Luki. Edouard has damaging memories to contend with, mainly relating to his late wife, and is hugely concerned with Luki’s well being. Her child- like view of what is happening, shaped by her precious toy kangaroo, is a constant element of the book, and I thought it was very well written. This is a very atmospheric book, well written and involving, and I was very pleased to have the opportunity to read and review it.

The book opens in January 1938 with an incident when Nanee is flying; she risks an accident in order to save a black swan. This is an important theme, her willingness to risk everything to save others. When she attends a party she encounters Surrealist artists, but is especially moved by Edouard and his relationship with his small daughter. As the War draws nearer, Edouard and Luki travel to a quiet village, where he hopes to develop his negatives and keep well away from trouble. However, life is not that simple in the face of invasion and occupation, and it seems no one is safe. Nancee is soon aware of those around her who are in trouble for their nationality and creative record. While she hopes to stay in France, she makes every effort to help those who are trying to flee to safety. In time she feels challenged to use her money to help finance a rescue operation working on the edges of legality. It is far from easy or safe work, especially when she becomes the “Postmistress”, delivering messages to those desperate for news. The people who she works with, whether real or fictional, are so well drawn, and the sense of threat permeates the narrative.

This book is so well researched that there is a firm basis for the book; it feels so firmly based yet never bogged down by details. The characters flow in their feeling of reality, sometimes negative, aggressive, dismissive, but also optimistic, thoughtful and resourceful. The character of Luki, a small girl physically but huge in her impact on the narrative, really lifts the book from beginning to end, as she struggles to understand what is going on in a situation which the adults around her are finding nearly impossible. I thoroughly recommend this book for its atmosphere, its story, and most of all its well established, consistent characters.