50 in 2012: Book FourPosted: February 21, 2012
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
The story of an amazingly compelling, courageous woman and her efforts to protect her girls during the German occupation of Guernsey. Caring for her elderly mother in law while her husband is away fighting, Vivienne de la Mare fears that the Nazi brutality will permeate her island and rob her of her most prized possessions. Her fears grow stronger as three elder German soldiers take up residence next door to her home. With her home very clearly visible, her movements and daily activities become immediately under watch.
As the intensity of the occupation increases, so does the pressure on Vivienne. Caring for an aging mother in law of a husband she no longer loves. Falling, passionately and deeply, in love with Gunther, one of the neighboring German soldiers. Torn, conflicting emotions: love, deep and true, yet daily confrontations with the brutality of war at the hands of Gunther’s fellow soldiers. Secrets. Daughters watching it all unfold. Decisions: the one you married, the one you love, or the one who needs you the most? Helping one, siding with one, means potentially losing them all. Forever.
The juxtaposition of good and evil, love and war is heart wrenching, impressive, and powerful. Gunther seeks out Vivienne in spite of his allegiance to his country and demands of his position. I found their struggle to put love before the realities of war incredibly poignant as they both jeopardize everything to be together.
The author’s choice to highlight a house full of women during a time of chaos, war, and uncertainty was not lost on me. The supposed strength of the male soldiers is explained as merely doing a job, while the demure and vulnerable women left behind exude strength beyond measure. Magnificent.