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Ignorance Paperback – 14 Mar 2013

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Product details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Paperbacks (14 Mar. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408831155
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408831151
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 337,925 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

A gripping story of fear, arrests and personal tragedy (Independent)

Moving and involving. Only the most hard-hearted reader will resist its spider web of injustices (The Times)

Powerful and lyrical ... Her deceptively simple narrative provides a devastating critique of religious hypocrisy and bourgeois morality, couched in gloriously pointillist prose (Michael Arditti, Daily Mail)

A magnificent writer (Helen Dunmore, Guardian)

Roberts' description of heartache, loss and guilt is breathtaking. Simply brilliant (Irish Examiner)

Brilliantly poetic (Independent)

Book Description

A stunning war-time novel set in France from Booker-shortlisted author Michèle Roberts

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Customer Reviews

3.9 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Chaucer on 31 May 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
I adored this book and it would grace any Booker or Orange Prize shortlist. Roberts deals with some heartbreaking and difficult issues through the narratives of Jeanne, Marie-Angele and others. Roberts creates individual voices through some wonderful prose and I loved the imagery she uses which develops the psychology of the women revealing their fears and and hurts which is uncomfortable but never intrusive. The worlds of childhood and Nazi France merges: pamphlets that Jeanne distributes are "lost handerkerchiefs" and the prostitutes are sweets chosen by their clients. I felt totally wrapped up in the world of the novel: the privations and hardships of the Second World War are so well realised. Paper is so scarce and this runs through the book; everything is harboured and reused. The smells and textures of this world are wonderfully evoked. Some may find the ending a little unsatisfactory but this is a terrific book and there would be much to discuss for book groups too.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Ripple TOP 500 REVIEWER on 27 Mar. 2013
Format: Paperback
Michèle Roberts's "Ignorance" is a beautifully written, lyrical story about life in wartime France. Narrated mainly by two characters, Jeanne and Marie-Angèle, it jumps back and forward in time and is an enthralling mixture of guilt, faith, and survival. The two girls could not be more different. Marie-Angèle is the grocer's daughter while Jeanne is the daughter of a Jewish mother who washes clothes for a living. The two girls together go to the village convent for their education but come from different ends of the social spectrum. When the German occupation arrives, the two girls' experiences are very different but both are "ignorant" of each others plight and their judgements are repeatedly shown to be wide of the mark. In fact the book could just as well have been titled "Judgement". Just when you think you know one through the eyes of the other, you get the opposite view of things.

If you like a conventional story and plot line, this may not be the book for you. The book's strength is in the lyrical, almost poetic descriptions and time periods jump back and forward. But while lyrical books can be tend towards wordy tomes, this is quite the opposite. The writing is concise and emotive and the result is enthralling.

In particular, at the heart of the book is the way French society dealt with the women who had fraternized with the German soldiers during the war. The judgement of others is always black and white while the truth is often more complicated and everyone was really doing what they needed to get by.

All of Roberts's narrators are female. As well as Jeanne and Marie-Angèle we also hear from Jeanne's daughter Andrée and briefly from one of the nuns.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lady Fancifull TOP 500 REVIEWER on 24 July 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Noel Coward gave some sage, though painful, advice to writers - 'Murder Your Darlings' - this basically meant that when you fall in love with the seductiveness of your own writing, you need to get out that scalpel and cross out pen, and be ruthless. Admittedly, he was referring to witty theatrical bon mots and one-liners that make the playwright laugh themselves to smithereens, but the advice can equally well apply to writers, like Roberts, who write EXTREMELY beautifully, lyrically, poetically, in almost an impressionistic painterly way.

The trap for a writer of poetic, artistic, metaphorical skill is that they become seduced and in love with their magnificent images and word painting, but lose the fireside skill of telling a story - 'Once Upon A Time' which, however beautiful the telling, needs a sense of momentum so that the reader is hooked by 'and what next, and to whom' Character (all characters) must be rounded, and what happens to them, plausible. The author playing god and moving her pieces around should not happen too often.

Unfortunately, Roberts is no murderer.

Yes, this is a beautifully written book, told in several female voices (though all a little too poetic) of what happened to two girls, one assimilated French Jewish, one French Catholic, in wartime Paris. Its a tale of class and aspiration as much as a tale of that terrible time. The Jewish girl comes from a more artistic, intellectual sensibility, though fallen on hard times, the Catholic girl comes from a bourgeois family whose aspirations are material rather than creative.
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37 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Susie B TOP 50 REVIEWER on 3 May 2012
Format: Hardcover
Jeanne Nerin and Marie-Angele Baudry, both nine years old at the start of this story, grow up together in the village of Ste Madeleine. Jeanne's mother, who converted from Judaism to the Roman Catholic faith, has fallen upon hard times due to the premature death of Jeanne's father, and now has to take in washing to earn her living. Marie-Angele is the daughter of a shopkeeper and both she and her mother, consider themselves to be rather superior to the Nerins, but are keen to do their duty and help the family out by employing Madame Nerin to do the Baudry family washing. When Jeanne and Marie-Angele become temporary boarders at the local convent school, they meet up with the eccentric Jewish artist living next door to the school and, even though they have been forbidden by the nuns to have anything to do with him, the girls manage to gain access to his company and to his large and wonderful old house.

As the girls become older they spend less time with each other and consequently they grow apart, especially when Marie-Angele stays on at school to get enough qualifications to enable her to train as a secretary, and Jeanne leaves as soon as possible and, at fourteen years old, starts working as a maid. And when the Second World War takes hold and France becomes occupied by Hitler's army, their lives change completely; Marie-Angele meets the suave Maurice who hides escaping Jews in her garden shed and supplies her family with 'under the counter' goods, whilst Jeanne suffers wartime deprivations and becomes what Marie-Angele considers to be a woman of loose morals. When the war comes to an end and Marie-Angele has become a self-satisfied wife and mother, she is horrified to see her former friend paraded along the streets and vilified for fraternising with the enemy.
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