Vianne Mauriac is a school teacher living in a small countryside along her childhood sweetheart and husband, Antoine and their daughter, Sophie. One day, Antoine is ordered to report to the front leaving Vianne alone to protect her daughter and their home.
Isabelle Rosignol ( Vianne’s younger sister) is a reckless young girl being transferred from many boarding schools because of her unbearable nature, is sent by her drunkard father from Paris to Carriveau when a sudden war breaks out in Paris. Along with the thousands of refugees Isabelle has to travel barefoot and that’s when she bumps into Gaëtan, a handsome communist who manages to steal her first (true) kiss and her first heartbreak.
Stuck to survive together, Vianne and Isabelle have an estranged relationship ever since their mother died years ago. They don’t particularly hate each other but they also don’t really like each other much. They are completely different poles in characters which makes it more hard for them to live under one roof. With Vianne’s only motive being to protect her daughter and Isabelle’s patriotic self hating Vianne giving in to the Nazi’s orders just like everyone else, the sisters must find a way to survive through this war and each other.
This one is a masterpiece, it makes you laugh, cry and live with the characters as you read each and every chapters. The story is narrated by an old and dying Vianne as a flashback she had never told anyone.
Vianne is a typical strong mother who would do anything, I repeat anything to protect her daughter from the Nazi’s. At first, I didn’t like her much due to the way she treated Isabelle but slowly we understand the struggles she is going through to protect both Isabelle and Vianne. This character is a sole evidence that even main characters can make mistakes as of how Vianne never believes Isabelle.
Isabelle is a heroine, she is smart, daring , enthusiastic but also heedless. She doesn’t think much before deciding or talking something and tends to follow her instincts. Her portray as a patriotic young woman who wills to do anything to help make her country win was something fresh and new to see since it’s rare women are portrayed as patriotic.
The male characters, Antoine and Gaëtan are the ones who lift the main characters. Although I wished Antoine could have had more scope in the story , it was all logical since he was in the war. Gaëtan is a tragic hero and a bad boy material that eventually falls in love with Isabelle and leaves her after promising to come back for her – he does without expecting the heart break that’s waiting for him.
The Nazi’s that come to stay in their house, Wolfgang Beck is the first one. He and Vianne are drawn closer by their similar view on this war, they both hate how it has drawn them apart from their family. Therefore Beck has a compassion towads Vianne and Sophie, much to Isabelle disagree.
The second one, Von Ritcher, I personally wanted to see him die. I wish he did die a painful dead for the things he did to Vianne.
There are other minor characters mostly met by Isabelle after her joining a group of people who work in silence against the Nazi’s ,they are all perfectly written and manages to leave an impact on our heart.
Trigger Warning: sad ending, sensitive happenings such as rape and also murders and suicide.
This masterpiece leaves a big impact on our hearts even days after we have finished reading the book, the things that the characters undergo can be deeply felt and connected. Especially the climax of the book comes unexpected and can break hearts but also leave you with a smile when you read the epilogue.
This book definitely deserves more appreciation among the young generation.