The French House set on Guernsey by Jacquie Bloese
French House, Guernsey and Victor Hugo
If you thought you had read enough stories about Guernsey and the German oicciupation then think again. This is unique and utterly beguiling which you might not think given the subject matter but the writing elevates it to another level and its clever research and author’s deft of hand really makes a difficult subject shine through.
Boarding Pass Information : The French House
Destination :Guernsey during WW2
Author guide: Jacquie Bloese
Food and drink to accompany: Nothing much as there are shortages
If you thought you had read enough stories about Guernsey and the German occupation then think again. This is unique and utterly beguiling which you might not think given the subject matter but the writing elevates it to another level and its clever research and author’s deft of hand really makes a difficult subject shine through.
You might not think this is going to be a positive novel as in the early chapters, lead character Emilie suffers hearing loss. He ends up in Guernsey at the same time as his childhood sweetheart Isabelle.
They end up meeting at Hauteville house which was actually the real life home of Victor Hugo. So, queue the literary links from the start! He finds out that isabelle is now married and eventually he marries someone else. But neither of the childhood sweethearts are happy and there is a fair amount of longing regret and tension. Before anything can happen, the war erupts and the Germans invade changing life for ever.
It was very interesting to read about the German invasion of Guernsey as this is not a setting that I often read about in ww2. The people of Guernsey are a small community and there is a lot of suspicion and fear when the Germans bring so much danger and uncertainty, bringing the war right on their island doorstep.
What I really appreciate learning about too was Emile and his deafness. How was a deaf person treated at this time and what did the Germans make of him? There is a great deal of loneliness and claustrophobia om the island to begin with and add deafness to that and you have some seriously grave issues to deal with. I was shocked and moved in equal measure. Impossible to put yourself in his shoes but you do get a keen sense of what this poor man and deaf people at the time faced. He was lonely and solitary and my heart went out to him.
Guernsey is beautifully evoked despite the war time and you get a real sense of the island, its people and the pride they feel when going about their daily lives. The war encroaches on everything and I found myself thinking of issues I had never thought of before which humbled me. It was hard to read in parts but heartwarming in others. The character of the German soldier who is billeted at the house for example Lieutenant Schreiber = I found this character to be particularly insightful. He is there o fight and protect yet he loves nothing more than to paint. I grew to like him and hate him in equal measure. He and this situation reminded me of the film La suite francaise and how the German solider was given a certain degree of humanity. Powerful reading.
A wonderfully written and poignant novel I am still thinking about a few weeks after reading.