I liked this book, especially the middle section where Frankie is travelling through Europe. Didn't quite get the very beginning until later on in the story when it made a bit more sense and the ending felt a bit rushed but overall an enjoyable read.
It seemed to take me ages to read this book for some reason! I liked the plot (despite the unlikely coincidence of Frankie meeting Will in the bomb shelter, but it is a story, for heavens sake!) and felt that the main characters were well drawn - in particular Emma. The book definitely got better in the second half. However, the language was a bit rambling at times and I didn't feel the author succeeded in getting her point across sometimes, particularly when she was describing inner emotions. There are some factual inaccuracies in the book, as the author explains at the end, but I did Google 'Gurs' to find out more. By the time Frankie got to America and had found Emma, i was screaming at the pages 'tell her, tell her'!! A good read, but not an amazing one, although some of the images will stay with me - Iris chopping down the pole, Thomas pulling Frankie to sit down on the train and his cruel death, the panic of people on train stations.
This book arrived on a Saturday morning when I had very little to do, so I ended up finishing it in record time!
I think the strongest parts of this book were those written from Frankie's perspective - the images of London in wartime and her travels around Europe. It was really interesting reading something set at the time when people didn't really know what was happening with the Jews and what the Nazi plans were - we're so used to thinking about the death camps as such an integral part of the war that it's easy to forget that for quite a long time, no-one really knew what was happening.
The main criticism I have of the book is probably the loose ends - I really wanted Frankie to do something with all her recordings of refugees, and it would have been nice to hear a bit more about what happened to the characters later on; it seemed to finish rather abruptly. I thought the whole u-boat plot was a bit silly too. On the whole I enjoyed it, though.
Agree with Lightshines in that it took me ages to read this book - it just didn't seem to 'grip' me although I usually love books set in this period.
I felt that the characters did not link up enough and that there was too much emphasis on Frankie and not enough on the other two women.
Lots of loose ends and the writing was a bit self-conscious in parts as though the author had been on a creative writing course !
I thought the most thought provoking bit was the very final sentance in the 'notes' at the end of the book, actually I wish I had read that bit first before the rest of the story as it would have put it into perspective a bit more for me.
I was only able to skim-read this, I'm afraid, as the writing is (to my mind) so appallingly bad. Overwritten, self-consciously 'literary', try-hard rubbish. Having skim-read it this morning, I must say there was very little else I liked about this. The character POV is unstable (e.g. a chapter written from Frankie's POV will suddenly flip to the inner thoughts of a random man who only appears for half a page), the characters are underdeveloped and their relationships unconvincing, and the whole thing is too pat (Frankie meeting Will in the shelter, Harry having a coronary just as the entirely unlikely U boat surfaces etc.).
What did work were the scenes detailing the uncertainty and fear of the refugees trying to get away - I choked up a few times during this section, and this is in spite of the poor prose, so clearly a powerful subject. But ultimately it seemed quite offensive to use the story of these countless deaths and separations as the backdrop to a story about one person's pain being temporarily spared. I feel like, if Frankie had seen all that she had seen and been through all that stuff, she would have got home feeling like 'who gives a fuck about one single person's loss?' But that's probably just me
Anyway, sorry not to be down with this one. Also sorry if none of the above makes sense; my children haven't yet grasped the concept of giving mummy some peace and quiet to collect her thoughts.
Sorry I didn't post on thisone earlier... I also have children who seem to think they are moreimportant than the book circle.
I struggled with this one. I wish I could skim read, now I've read aStars comments, but I always think I am missing somehing when I do. I did read it all, and it took me all month, as I really had little interest in it.
As others have said, the stories onthe train were the best bits, but it was very disjonted and I didn't really warm to any of the main characters. There were too many half told stories and too many unbelievable coincidences. I still don't get why she didn't tell Emma. Not knowing doesn't stop him being dead, and personally speaking, I would want to know everything I could.
I think I'm somewhere in the middle. It won't go on my epic list overall but I found the perspective of the refugees in Europe some of the most human and real communication of the WW2 atrocities I've read. Simultaneously individual and personal but with hints of the sheer number of people suffering, and I thought the setting staying mid-war rather than through to the end highlighted the dreadful uncertainty and fear.
Agree the writing was erratic and I was irritated by some americanisms in the london sections, but I could mostly overlook them. And the lack of resolution in most of the stories was actually the theme I found most affecting, so my frustration was trivial in the context of the book.
Funny, isn't it. At the time of reading, I did not feel particularly impressed by this book. But on looking back on what I've read in this round of swaps, I realise that scenes from this book have come back to my mind very often.
I have to say I picked this book because, although some of it is poorly written, it does have a very moving section in the middle which caused me to stop and think quite hard which was my criteria for picking a book.
I do think an entirely different and better story could have been written which bypassed most of the british part and moved straight between america and france.