Wednesday, August 21, 2019

The Winemaker's Wife by Kristin Harmel

All the sudden there seem to be a lot of books about France during World War II and this is another.  This one is very recent - it even made reference to the spring fire at Notre Dame Cathedral.

I quite enjoyed this book - and while I had figured out some of the surprises at the end, there were just enough plot tricks to make me doubt whether my guesses were going to prove correct.

Like many historical fiction books, this one goes back and forth in time.  In the present day we follow  41 year old Liv.  She is still reeling from her divorce when her 99 year old grandmother shows up on her doorstep in New York and flies her to her home in Paris.  There she promises she wants to reveal long buried family secrets - however, she is too emotional to do so in a systematic way.  Instead she takes Liv to Reims in champagne country, and introduces her to a young lawyer, Julian, who together with her grandmother slowly reveals the past.

The historical scenes all take place in champagne country during World War II.  There, a young somewhat immature woman, Ines, leaves the home of her best friend Edith to marry the owner of a vineyard, Michel.  At the vineyard Michel and Ines are joined by the master winemaker, Theo, and his wife, Celine.  While all of them feel threatened by the German invasion, it is Celine who stands to lose the most as she has a Jewish father.

Ines feels belittled by her husband, Celine and Michel and as a result makes some very stupid, and ultimately dangerous, choices which haunt her.  I don't want to give too much away - but the story involves both French resistance and collaboration, infidelity, jealousy...

As you might expect, the two stories eventually come together quite elegantly.  If you like this kind of book, this one is well written, with multi-dimensional characters, and worth the read.

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