Review Blog

Mar 23 2012

The Lavender Keeper by Fiona McIntosh

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Michael Joseph, 2012. 9781921518416
(Age: Senior students - Adults) Set in the last years of the German occupation of France, The Lavender Keeper is the story of the romance between Luc, a once wealthy lavender grower from Provence, and Lisette, a British spy sent to Paris to work with the French Underground. Part 1 is set in Provence, July, 1942. Luc's lavender is ready to be harvested; the reader is introduced to his village, the traditions of the harvest and Luc's adopting family who have returned unexpectedly from Paris. They are Jews looking for safety but are betrayed by a French collaborator in the village. Wanting revenge, Luc becomes a maquis, a member of the underground. Part 2 begins in London a year later. Lisette is trained to work as a British spy in Paris. She is parachuted into Provence, from where Luc helps smuggle her into Paris, despite an encounter with the Gestapo. Parts 3 and 4 are set in German occupied Paris. Conveniently, both Luc and Lisette have mixed German and French heritage which enables them to work for the occupying forces. Inconveniently, for the mission, they fall in love. Even more inconveniently, Lisette also forms an attachment with a high ranking German officer, Markus Kilian. When she suspects that Marcus is involved in a plot to assassinate Hitler she encourages his attentions so that she can collect information for London. Marcus is an honourable soldier, however, and refuses to reveal information or to endanger her in any way. Luc has become a driver for the Germans and is forced to watch the relationship flourish. The assassination plot fails, the allies, led by the French forces under de Gaulle, reenter Paris and Markus engineers his own death, leaving Luc and Lisette to each other. The author captures the atmosphere in wartime Paris and London well, and the early scenes in Provence set on the lavender farm are believable and interesting. The attitudes towards the Germans are more nuanced than in many depictions of the same time. Unfortunately, the language used to describe their love is as cliqued as the plot device of the romance. However, the book is set in a fascinating time in history and the dilemmas and privations of the time are acknowledged.
Jenny Hamilton

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