Suite Francaise by Irene Nemirovsky
Irene Nemirovsky was a successful writer in France when WWII started. She was also Jewish, and was arrested and taken to Auschwicz where she died. The manuscript for this novel went undiscovered until decades later when it was found and published in France in 2004. This translation to English was published in 2007 and it has now been translated and published in countries around the world.
The story of the German invasion of France is told from the points of view of seven different people/families. Corbin is a banker in Paris and his mistress, Arlette, is a dancer. Mr. and Mrs. Michaud work for Corbin and have a son, Jean Marie, who is serving as a soldier in France. Gabriel Corte is a renowned author who is used to having things his way. Charlie Langelet lives in luxury and "loved nothing in this world but his porcelain collection.". Madeline and Cecile Sabarie live in the countryside on a farm where they nurse the Michaud's son back to health after he is injured. The Angellier family live near the Sabarie's farm, in a small town overrun by people fleeing Paris after the invasion.
Each story vividly describes what it was like to be in those particular circumstances when the panic of invasion set in. The detail given to each situation makes the stories come alive so that you come close to understanding some of what they must have been feeling. There are so many little things, daily habits and activities that were turned upside down by the German takeover, things we who have never experienced war have never had to think about. It's a vibrant novel, full of real life and real tragedy, but it never becomes weepy or too sentimental. It's the kind of book you don't want to describe as entertaining because of the subject, but it is a well written, highly readable novel that will disturb your comfort a bit and will hold your attention from start to finish.
The Long Way Home by Robin Pilcher
This book was slightly disappointing. I love Rosamunde Pilcher's novels, but didn't find this one, written by her son, lived up to it's hype.
It is said to be written "in the tradition of his mother" but something is missing. It has all the Britishness that I find so appealing, the house in Scotland, the manners and mannerisms, and the language, but it fell flat. There was no edge, no sparkle, no special something to make it memorable.
It's not that I didn't like it at all, in fact I might read another of his novels sometime when I'm looking for something light and easy to read. It just doesn't have the substance that I like to find in novels and that I usually did find in Rosamunde's.