The Secrets Between Us is a dual time novel based upon events in the Alpes-Maritimes department of France during 1943. The author created the fictional town of Saint-Antoine to represent one of the small mountain towns of the area which, for a while, were overseen by the Italian army.
Eighteen year old Ceci worked in the family bakery; times were hard, flour was of poor quality and scarce, but each day they made basic bread for the town. Then news came that the Alpes-Maritimes area was being sent hundreds of people of Jewish descent to live among them during the ‘enforced residence’ project. Ceci’s family offered the flat over the bakery to Daniel and Myriam Reiss in return for rent. The newcomers fascinated Ceci and she soon became friends with Myriam.
In 1993 Annie is a loner employed as a cataloguing administrator for the foreign office, transferring endless paper files to a computer system. Her mother has recently been very ill and has asked Annie to help her find and reconnect with her own mother, Annie’s grandmother. The pair lost contact after an argument many years before, but Evelyn now wants to ask for her mother’s forgiveness.
When Annie finds her Grandmother, the elderly lady has a last request: to return to Saint-Antoine and face a past she ran away from.
I enjoyed the parts of the book set in Saint-Antoine, both past and present events; the descriptions of the landscape, food and people made it come alive as I read the pages. I felt the despair and the fear during the war years as well as the guilt and the pain from Annie’s Grandmother when they returned. The answers that Annie finds about her own family are sweet and, if I’m honest, predictable, but they fit a purpose and offer a happy ending to a story filled with painful memories.
The Italian occupation and the ‘enforced residence’ project are different aspects of the war, which, for me, set this book apart from others I’ve read in this genre. So I would easily recommend it to those who enjoy war years fiction.
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High in the mountains in the South of France, eighteen-year-old Ceci Corvin is trying hard to carry on as normal. But in 1943, there is no such thing as normal; especially not for a young woman in love with the wrong person. Scandal, it would seem, can be more dangerous than war.
Fifty years later, Annie is looking for her long-lost grandmother. Armed with nothing more than a sheaf of papers, she travels from England to Paris in pursuit of the truth. But as she traces her grandmother’s story, Annie uncovers something she wasn’t expecting, something that changes everything she knew about her family – and everything she thought she knew about herself…
Laura Madeleine is the author of The Confectioner’s Tale, Where the Wild Cherries Grow (2018, US) and The Secrets Between Us.
After a childhood spent acting professionally and training at a theatre school, Laura changed her mind, and went to study English Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge. She now writes fiction, as well as recipes, and was formerly the resident cake baker for Domestic Sluttery. She lives in Bristol, but can often be found visiting her family in Devon and getting up to mischief with her sister, fantasy author Lucy Hounsom.