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In this novel we follow the history of a French family in a little village throughout several decades and places. Beginning in 1944, a sixteen-year-old girl is secretly in love with a boy who passes by their house riding his bicycle every day at the same hour and, thanks to her daydreaming about her love for him, the Nazi occupation of the village and the sirens wailing each night disappear from her mind. But in the end the place is bombed by the allies, and the family members will be separated at this particular moment in which lives and dreams are lost forever.

Every chapter is told from the point of view of one character in a certain stage of the family history, and sometimes we come back to this French village in the forties, but other times we find ourselves various decades later in Paris, and it is as if each chapter is an independent short story by itself because the characters won’t star in more than one although, at the end, you feel a cycle coming to an end with the whole history of every family member since that day in 1944.

This way of storytelling has been the most remarkable peculiarity of the book; I was hooked to these little portions of the family history through the eyes of different characters, like the pieces of a puzzle, wondering about this or that one, often recreating past events of one of the sisters through a thought or a conversation decades later into the chapter of another family member.

It could have been an average novel of the Nazi occupation, but the narration makes the story of this family unique, and those glimpses into this sister’s, the aunt’s or that child’s life go further into filling the atmosphere of the family and the time than a linear narration would.

Thanks to Harper books for the galley.

 

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