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The story is a good one and the characters well filled out. The issue I had with it is the WW2 history and setting is not very good. The author clearly has only superficial knowledge and the editor less so. A good editor could have cleaned up the errors without detracting from the story. The main character in 1950 casually says during the war she tried for SOE but was not good enough. In 1950 she would have been under the official secrets act still, further at the point she failed the course she may not have known it was SOE. The unoccupied zone is exactly that unoccupied - there are no German soldiers wandering about.
I am used to other books by this author, mostly her Marchmont series. But lately I have been reading books set during wartime Europe. This book moves back and forth between wartime France during the German occupation and an English country home a few years later. The same family is shattered during the occupation. Some members work for the French resistance while others come perilously close to collaboration. Their experience is tragic. The truth of their story unfolds when a young woman, reeling from her own losses, joins the household as a secretary. The narrative hurtles to its conclusion. I found myself caught in the story and read until two in the morning to finish their heartbreaking story.
It was interesting to see how Ms Benson would treat WWII fiction and she did a really good job of it. I learnt something new about the resistance movement in France that I had not known about. There were also some original details which made the characters a little different. It was also fast paced and very well put together.
The only recurring weakness I see in Ms Benson's writing is the sometimes overly romanticized characterisation of some events and the implausability of some of the characters' reactions and motives, such as the occasional outbursts of the main character Harriet. It just didn't always ring true; I've seen the same occasional immaturity in character psychology and plausability (a certain romantic naivete perhaps) in her other books. Nevertheless, there are so many nuggets of enjoyment in her writing, including this one, that I would recommend it as a satisfying read. Perhaps Ms Benson just needs a little more life experience and that of human motivations and the human heart to improve on the evident value of her story-telling art.