Two generations later, Claire’s English granddaughter Harriet arrives in Paris, rootless and adrift, desperate to find a connection with her past. Living and working in the same building on the Rue Cardinale, she learns the truth about her grandmother – and herself – and unravels a family history that is darker and more painful than she ever imagined.
In wartime, the three seamstresses face impossible choices when their secret activities put them in grave danger. Brought together by loyalty, threatened by betrayal, can they survive history’s darkest era without being torn apart?
Comment: Another book I got from the library. I had never heard of the author - I now see she has written several books already - but the theme and style (WWII and dual time) are usually things I like, so...
I think the author did a good job investigating and putting pieces together to create this book. I particularly liked the sections we followed in the 40s, because these parts were detailed and emotional enough and I think the characters' evolution was easy to empathize with and to cheer for. The young ladies at some point faced terrible choices but one cannot help but appreciate them for them.
Claire is a key character, not only because of her connection with granddaughter Harriet, but because her evolution is the one which stands out the most. She goes from someone rather naive and rather shallow (dreams of becoming someone in Paris still influences some of her choices) but a betrayal makes her see things differently, with more realistic eyes. Her complicated feelings about her family back home, what life was like in a fisherman's village where fashion had no place also play a part in her behavior. I actually liked Claire's evolution.. at first she was rather unbearable but from a certain point on, how not to root for her?
This is a WWII book, so do expect some harsher content. Nothing is overly graphic on the page but we get aware of the situations people faced back then, especially those who worked for the Resistance and were caught or denounced. I would not say this is the most heartbreaking story of all in this aspect - the writing has something to do with it - but there is enough described to make the reader think and feel sad and hopeless impotence we can't change things not "save" people from such a fate.
What could have been certainly improved a lot is the contemporary sections, and seeing several reviews, more readers would agree. Harriet's POV in the modern sections were just too silly and, to me, embellished to the point it felt no one would think like that. We are told Harriet had a rough phase in the sense her mother committed suicide and that obviously left a hole in Harriet. By investigating, she discovers there can be a connection between our parent's traumas and our own mental health. I will not discuss this, as I have no knowledge on the subject, but I do think it might seem a little far fetched to make such a linear connection between her grandmother's terrible trauma in a Nazi camp to her mothers's suicide and to her own depressing thoughts or self esteem.
Then, we also have how Harriet finds all these things.... in an amazing coincidence, a fellow work friend is the granddaughter of Mireille, who is still alive, and sends her letters, so that Harriet can know more about her own grandmother. I can believe one would be doable, but letter after letter detailing so much Mireille didn't see herself? I mean....this element could have been done better, I think.