Half In Shadow is set during World War One in occupied Belgium. It revolves around the Descharmes family, with a sub-plot about an English soldier.
The story begins in 1914 with the occupation of Belgium; the Descharmes family are shocked by a series of shootings and arrests. After this terrifying time the family go to live in Brussels which is now under German rule. Josephine Descharmes finds work as a waitress in a hotel, while her brother plays a dangerous game: driving a delivery lorry for the Germans and working for the resistance.
The secondary plot is about Arthur, whose son was killed early in the war. The heartache from the boy’s death breaks up his family, and while consumed by grief and guilt Arthur enrols himself in the army. He chooses to follow his son’s path, fighting from the trenches on the frontlines.
The First World War theme of this book appealed to me; I was reminded that I know less about this war than the Second World War. For example, I hadn’t remembered that Holland was a neutral country at this time. It explained why the Resistance were so eager to get soldiers across the border into Holland.
It took me a long time to settle into this story; I was into the last third of the book before I began to feel empathy for the characters. The style of writing chosen by the author made it hard for me to engage with them. It is important to me to have an emotional connection to characters and I just didn’t get that. I would also have liked to ‘feel’ more of the fear, grit and desperation; yes there was sorrow, pain and anger, but I never really believed that they were in too much danger. Actions happened but the raw emotion was lacking.
I’m sure that there will be lots of readers who will enjoy this story and who won’t mind the style in which it is written. I quite liked the overall story themes, but it didn’t ‘touch’ me.
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1915. In German-occupied Belgium, a tragic loss forces Josephine Descharmes to navigate dangerous new territory. By day it’s compliance, serving German officers at the Hotel Métropole. By night it’s resistance, working with her brothers underground to help Allied soldiers and civilians cross the border into Holland. Both paths put her and her family at great risk.
As Josephine struggles to keep her family safe, Arthur, a grief-stricken English soldier trapped behind enemy lines, finds purpose and hope with Josephine and her work. Meanwhile, Franz, a German officer remorseful for the casualties of war, offers her protection and opportunity. These two men from opposing sides will open her heart and test her loyalties.
Amid the sorrows of war and threats of mortal danger and betrayal, Josephine must steer her own fate. In a country deprived of freedom, she will make an impossible choice—one that will forever impact the family she cherishes and the man she loves.