This was a good historical fiction about a librarian in a small coastal French town during WWII and her determination to protect the town’s library and all of the books within.
Jocelyn and Antoine are childhood sweethearts. Shortly after they marry Antoine gets drafted in the Army, leaving Jocelyn to fend for herself. When France falls to Germany, their coastal town is occupied by the Nazi Army and Jocelyn is forced to house a cruel SS officer in her home. The officer takes an immediate dislike to Jocelyn and her unwillingness to cower under his authority and strikes out by confiscating and destroying books in her library. Another German officer tries his best to protect Jocelyn and the library, with mixed results.
Antoine is injured and taken as a prisoner of war. He is eventually released and returns home, but is gravely ill and never fully recovers. Jocelyn attempts to hide books and tries to resist the Nazis, but most of her efforts, and those of other townspeople, fail.
This book was a bit of a disappointment. The story moved slowly and was pretty bleak. I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. There were several different plot lines that were added to the book at different times, but none of them were fully developed and ended abruptly. It’s like the author didn’t know what story he wanted to tell. It would have been better to stick to one or two main points, and do those well, rather than scattering several different half-formed plotlines throughout the book.
For a WWII historical fiction, the violence is thankfully not too explicit, nor is there much of it. There are a few instances of atrocities described, but not in vivid details. I found the relationship with Jocelyn and both German officers confusing. There weren’t enough details about why one officer hated her and another loved her to be convincing. From the few, brief interactions she had with them, you wouldn’t expect those heightened feelings. It was like a bad YA Romance where upon two character’s first meeting they are either immediately madly in love or decide to be mortal enemies. It didn’t make sense and was not compelling. The writing itself wasn’t bad, but the story moved too slowly for me. So many issues didn’t seem to have much of a point and I never really knew where the book was going.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and Thomas Nelson. All opinions are my own.
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