There are times – when you see one of Berni Stevens’ beautiful covers and read the description – that you know you’re going to love a book before you even open it. And that was the case with Arlette’s Story by Angela Barton, published by Choc Lit imprint Ruby Fiction on 26th June and available on all major e-book platforms. I’m delighted to share my review as part of the blog tour – and my thanks to the publishers for my advance reading copy.
One woman’s struggle to fight back against the enemy in order to protect the ones she loves.
When Arlette Blaise sees a German plane fly over the family farm in 1940, she’s comforted by the fact that the occupying forces are far away in the north of the country. Surely the war will not reach her family in the idyllic French countryside near to the small town of Oradour-sur-Glane?
But then Saul Epstein, a young Jewish man driven from his home by the Nazis, arrives at the farm and Arlette begins to realise that her peaceful existence might be gone for good…
You might just have some pre-conceptions when you see that this book is published by Ruby Fiction. I suspect you might be thinking love story, bit on the light side, a fun read – right? And to start with, it is nicely light – Arlette a really likeable young girl, missing her mum, living on a farm with her father and brother, sneaking away to chat with her friend about all the things young girls on the cusp of adulthood talk about in the secret hollow by the river, all against a beautifully drawn rural setting. But the war is getting closer – the refugees passing by desperate for food, the marketplace filled with displaced people rather than the usual stalls, the occupying army on the move.
And Arlette’s life changes dramatically – her developing love affair with Jewish farm worker Saul putting her and everyone around her in real danger, the farm stripped of everything they hold dear, the German forces at a nearby mansion a constant threat and danger. Arlette grows up very quickly – and it’s a harrowing and exceptionally well told story that gripped me throughout. There are heroes, there are villains and there are so many victims – the story is heartbreaking, filled with emotional twists and turns that take your breath away, vivid descriptions of the beauty of the countryside and the changing seasons contrasting with the sheer horror the Occupation brings. When you see mention of Oradour-sur-Glane, you might just guess what is to come – an act of devastating and totally inexplicable cruelty, a horrendous waste of life – and it’s graphically and realistically described, read through tears.
I thought this book was quite superb – a love story at its heart, a rural idyll destroyed, an unexpected depth of detail about real events and experiences, combined with a really powerful and totally riveting story. And it’s beautifully written – with its initial lightness building up to a tension that makes you ache, a feeling of real and constant danger, with well-drawn people at its centre that make you care so deeply for their plight.
I’d really recommend reading the piece Angela wrote for Choc Lit’s blog – you’ll find it here – about the book’s location and background, complete with the most wonderful (and very moving) pictures that bring the story to life.
With thanks to Angela and tour organiser Rachel’s Random Resources, I’m pleased to be able to offer the chance to win a really lovely notebook (UK Only).
Here’s the rafflecopter for entry:
Terms and Conditions The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then I reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over. Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time I will delete the data. I am not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.
About the author
Angela Barton was born in London and grew up in Nottingham. She is married with three grown up children. Passionate about writing both contemporary and historical fiction, Angela loves researching for her books and is an avid reader. Having signed publishing contracts for three of her completed novels with Ruby Fiction, Angela is excited to be working alongside such a friendly and supportive publishing team. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and Nottingham Writers’ Studio.
Having recently moved to France, Angela (alongside her husband, Paul) is now a lavender farmer, creating products from the oil that’s distilled. Angela says she’s looking forward to spending more time writing in the company of her two spaniels while sitting on her veranda overlooking the breath-taking countryside of Charente.