Review Blog

Jun 11 2013

The French Promise by Fiona McIntosh

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Michael Joseph, ISBN 9781921518713
(Age: Senior secondary readers) The French Promise is a continuation of The Lavender Keeper, which is set during World War 2, and concerns Lisette, an English spy, Luc, a lavender grower and Maquisade from Provence whose adopted family have been taken away by the Nazis, and Kilian, a charismatic Nazi officer. This, the second book in the series, begins in Auschwitz where Luc's sisters are living their final days. The action then shifts to Eastbourne in England where, post-war, Luc and Lisette are married with a small child. Lisette is desperately trying to help Luc forget the torment of losing his family and farm. She persuades him to migrate to Tasmania which she estimates will have a climate conducive for lavender growing. They establish themselves on a holding where by 1964 the lavender flourishes. Now a family with two teenage children they all seem to be facing a future as happy as their present. However, unbeknownst to them, Kilian had a son, Max, who never knew his father. Max's attempts to discover all that he can about his father leads him to uncover information about Lisette, Luc and the Gestapo officer von Schleigel whom his father loathed. A tragic swimming accident and an unexpected contact with Max reawakens the pain of the past. Luc decides that it is time to return to Europe to enforce justice on von Schleigel who he has learnt was responsible for his family's deaths. On the journey Jenny discovers the pleasures of Paris and Luc falls in love again. He also becomes responsible for two young men, Max and Robert, who as a child had helped him during the war. Revenge proves to be more complex than Luc had anticipated, but he achieves his aim without compromising his principles by the end of the novel. The narrative moves at a reasonable pace and is more engaging than the cliched style promises. The characters are stereotypical and their actions predictable, but the research is solid and the reader gets a clear sense of the ongoing trauma of war for people and places for many decades. The novel is recommended for senior readers.
Jenny Hamilton

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