Another beautiful book from Lucinda Riley.
This book follows a female spy from Yorkshire who travels to France in WW2, and a french heiress in the 1990's who is discovering her family's past. The duality timeline is effectively written, and seamlessly weaves a thrilling and emotional story throughout the whole book. The tension that was created during the scenes with the Germans was very palpable, and I found myself holding my breath during some pages!
As the book is based in different decades there are quite a few characters involved in the story. As always the author makes all of the characters believable and interesting, and I really did feel for them during their personal hardships. There any many difficult, and complex relationships explored during the book, which makes this such an emotional read.
This is definitely a book I will read again, and is easily on par with her previous books. Also a great book for fans of Kate Morton, Diane Setterfield and Rachel Hore. Enjoy!
Lucinda Riley's latest novel 'The Light Behind the Window' is an entertaining dual time frame novel set in the 1990s and the 1940s. In the late 1990s, in the south of France, we meet Emilie de la Martinieres, an attractive, but naïve young woman from a wealthy, aristocratic family, whose sophisticated and emotionally distant mother has just died. Although not close to her mother, Emilie feels her loss, especially as she is now the sole surviving member of the de la Martinieres family and she is unsure about what to do with the beautiful, but crumbling family chateau and the vineyard she has inherited. Should she sell, or should she start to renovate the chateau with the proceeds of her inheritance? While trying to decide what to do with her life, Emilie, who is at a very low ebb, meets Sebastian Carruthers, a charming and seemingly kind Englishman who is keen to take charge and help Emilie to make decisions. Emilie quickly comes to rely on Sebastian and, after a very brief time together, they marry and Sebastian takes Emilie to England and to his family home in Yorkshire. There Emilie meets Alex, Sebastian's disabled brother who, Sebastian warns her, is the black sheep of the family and not all that he appears on the surface. However, as Emilie gets to know Alex better during Sebastian's long absences from home, and begins to enjoy her brother-in-law's company, she starts to realize that maybe it is Sebastian who is not all he appears to be. And when Emilie starts to delve into her family history, she discovers a lot more than she expected ....
In the 1940s we meet Constance Carruthers (Sebastian and Alex's grandmother) who is drafted into the SOE and, after a period of intense training, is flown into occupied Paris at the height of the Second World War. When her contact from the Resistance does not arrive to collect her, Constance finds her way to the Paris home of Edouard de la Martinieres and straight into the presence of two high ranking Nazi officers. Living on her wits, Connie finds herself in a very difficult situation, especially when one of the Nazi officers decides that he would like to get to know her intimately. And when she is put in the position of having to submit to his warped desires in order to save the lives of other people around her, Connie realizes there is more to war than fighting and more than one way to carry out her duty to her country.
(No 'spoilers' here - there is a lot more for prospective readers to discover during the course of this story).
I haven't read any of Lucinda Riley's previous novels - in fact this one was given to me - so I wasn't sure what to expect when I started reading, but I was pleasantly surprised by this book. If I were wearing my 'literary head' I might just comment that some aspects of this story were a little predictable and that other aspects were not wholly convincing - however, once I had read past the first part of this novel, I found myself drawn into the lives of the characters and before I knew it I was more than halfway through the book. Despite the subject matter of the Nazi occupation of Paris, this novel made a pleasant, undemanding and entertaining read, and although it's most probably not the book to choose if you want to be challenged or if you wish to discover in any real depth the role of the SOE in occupied France, it is an enjoyable book for bedtime or downtime reading. If you are looking for something that is light, without being too lightweight, and you want a story based partly on fact, but blended with fiction, then this could be just what you are looking for.
I found this book very slow at the beginning and really wan't taken with it at all. However, it did improve as it progressed and I am very pleased that I continued reading it.
This is one of those books set in two time periods - the present and during WWII. Both time periods are set mainly in France. The present takes up more of the book than the past however, it is the past that I enjoyed the most.
I struggled with the main character, Emilie, to begin with. I found her difficult to like or empathise with. Her readiness to rely on a complete stranger, Sebastian, made me uncomfortable. I did cotton on quite quickly to some things that weren't revealled until later in the book. This took a bit of the shine off the twists at the end!
There is a lot in this book about sibling rivalry which I thought the author addressed well and I found interesting. I am not convinced that the concept of one being good and the other not is quite as clear cut as portrayed but still interesting.
The past section of this book takes place during WWII, mainly in occupied France. It includes some details of the SOE training which, as I have recently attended an exhibition on this subject, was interesting and obviously well researched. I felt that some of the situation in occupied France was a little simplified and understated and would have preferred more to have been made of this.
I enjoyed this book despite it taking a while for me to get into it.
I was very much looking forward to reading this story, and what a wonderful story it was!!!
The book opens in 1999, with Emilie at her mother's bedside as she passes away, with Emilie on the brink of inheriting the family estate and fortune. Overwhelmed by all the new decisions Emilie had to make, she runs into Sebastian, a man who has links to the family Château as he says his grandmother, Constance, stayed there during the conflict. As Emilie begins to sort out the family affairs, she begins to unlock the family's deepest secrets and delve into the past. Running alongside this part of the book, we also meet Constance in 1943, a young woman whose husband is missing in action. Constance is selected for the Special Operations Executive, and quickly sent off to France.
Lucinda Riley has written a truly captivating tale of love and war. From the moment I picked the story up I became enthralled with it, I simply could not put the book down again. I was spending every chance with my head buried in the pages, keen to find out where the journey would take me next.
Lucinda is a very talented author, she effortlessly moves back and forth between the past and the present, cleverly weaving the two times together and creating binding links that ensures the past plays a vital role in shaping the present. I loved every page of the book and was quite sad to finish the story, I must say I feel I gained a lot more knowledge from reading the book, as well as really enjoying the story for what it was.
The characters in The Light Behind The Window are exceptional, I became very emotionally involved with them, especially Emilie and Constance. I thought that they were such fantastically written characters. Constance in particular showed such courage and strength in the story and it touched my heart, I really enjoyed reading her part of the story and her journey was a very emotional one. Lucinda Riley has not only created two outstanding main characters, but has excelled in her supporting cast, Sebastian and Alex really stood out for me in that category, not forgetting Sophia as well.
I was completely taken in by the story, I loved the story and will be passing it onto my Nan so she can read it (When it arrived in the post she was instantly eyeing it up!). I will definitely be talking and spreading the word about Lucinda's new novel.
The Light Behind The Window takes the reader on an emotional and powerful journey. It is a moving story that had me gripped throughout, and the tale stayed with me long after I had finished reading it. Truly beautiful and captivating.
on 2 October 2012
No doubt about it, I'm giving this book five stars. First time I've come across this author and I really enjoyed the plot, the characters and her style of writing. One of those books where you want to know the ending yet don't want to finish reading the book. I'm pleased the Epilogue was lengthy and concluded the story nicely.
Damn...... I've got to start looking for another book now. Hope it will be just as good!
This double-narrative novel moves between a World War II love story set in Paris and Provence and a modern-day romance/thriller set in Yorkshire, Paris and Provence. In the modern-day narrative, Emilie de la Martinieres inherits, on her mother's death, the family ancestral chateau in Provence, a great deal of money and expensive property and some large debts. Emilie is a matter-of-fact, unassuming gentle vet, with no interest in riches, and is at somewhat of a loss as to what to do with her mother's property in Paris and jewels, the family art collection and her late father's cherished book collection - although one thing she does know is that she wants to keep the book collection and the family chateau, where she spent many happy summers with her father prior to his death. She takes a sabbatical to go down to the chateau and sort out her affairs - when enter by chance a handsome Englishman called Sebastian Carruthers (yes, really) who's full of helpful suggestions ('I believe that's an unsigned Matisse on your wall - shall I get it valued') and promises of devotion. I smelt a very large rat at this point, but Emilie clearly doesn't, as she marries Sebastian after less than a year's courtship. But Sebastian is not all he seems - and soon Emilie finds herself in a very strange situation, commuting between Sebastian's family home in Yorkshire and the chateau, and dealing with Sebastian's difficult relationship with his crippled brother Alex - who Sebastian denounces as a liar and drunkard, but who to Emilie seems witty, intelligent, kind and much put upon by Sebastian.
While all this is going on, Emilie is also discovering the story of Sebastian and Alex's grandmother Constance who (by what one might consider an improbable coincidence) knew Emilie's family and lived at the De la Martinieres's chateau during World War II. Emilie is told Constance's story by her father's old retainer Jacques - though we as readers get Constance's entire World War II experience from her viewpoint, including bits Jacques would not have known. Constance is sent over as an SOE agent to France during World War II; when her unit's cover is blown, she has to go into hiding, and ends up under the protection of Resistance hero Edouard de la Martinieres (Emilie's father), who appoints Constance to look after his beautiful blind sister Sophia. Edouard himself is busy pretending to be a friend of two prominent Nazi officers, while wheedling secrets out of them for the Resistance. But what no one can predict is that Sophia will fall in love with one of the officers (who, it turns out, actually hates the Nazis and is trying to work against them from within their system), that his twin brother will fall 'in lust' with Constance, or that Constance's and Edouard's Resistance activity will be discovered, putting them in terrible danger and causing Constance and Sophia to flee to the South of France where the dramatic second part of Constance's story plays out. (NB none of this is a spoiler - most of it's related on the book jacket, and there's a great deal more that happens to both Constance and Emilie.)
Lucinda Riley has certainly come a great way as a writer since 'Hot House Flower'. The language of this book is altogether more confident and flowing, the plot more believable and the characters more interesting. True, there is still the constant (sometimes awkward) use of alternatives to 'he said' ('he grunted', 'she murmured', 'she expostulated'). And there are the usual cliches associated with World War II fiction - the Nazi who's a drunken pervert with bad breath (all Nazis in these sort of books are alcoholics with bad breath - well, I suppose a lot of them were!), the good German masquerading as a senior Nazi officer (how often did this happen? Would it have been possible at that senior a level?), the fearless Resistance fighters capable of anything etc. The Sophia/Frederik affair had too many romantic cliches: lots of embracing, vows of eternal devotion and cries of 'my angel' (or the equivalent). But there was also a lot to enjoy. Sebastian's villainy might be very over the top (and if someone drank heavily spiked orange juice, wouldn't they know from the taste that something was up?) but Alex is a genuinely interesting and complex character, and his friendship with Emilie lovely to read about. Emilie herself, the diffident girl who gradually gains confidence, was a rather appealing character, as was Constance. And I felt that Riley portrayed Constance's conflicted feelings about her position (including boredom at the secluded life she was forced to lead at the chateau and tenderness for Sophia) very well. (It's a shame we didn't hear a bit more about her later life; it would have been interesting to see how her war experiences affected her on her return to England.) All in all I have to say the book kept me thoroughly entertained for three or four nights, and might encourage me to try another of Riley's books.
However, I do feel that Riley might also do well to check a few facts more carefully (or her editor could?) and perhaps write a few novels where the main characters are not hugely loaded aristocrats (which could become monotonous. I did find it slightly unbelievable that virtually everyone in the book (who wasn't a Loyal Retainer) was landed gentry - even Constance was the niece of a baroness! The odd inaccuracy or strange statement also had me puzzled. For example, at the start of the novel Emilie was told that her mother had got horribly into debt and owed millions of francs - a few pages later, Emilie was told she'd be extremely rich once they'd sold her mother's house (would that have paid off all the debts?). There's also the WiFi availability that mysteriously hits rural France some five or six years before WiFi was common, and the mysterious train that goes down to the South of France from Paris via a massive loop up north to Amiens. I'm also not sure someone would be banned for ever from attending Cambridge University due to a drink-driving charge - and why didn't Alex defend himself more?
Errors also cropped up in the historical sections. In one scene Constance goes to the opera, and sits listening to 'the dramatic opening chorus of Die Walküre'. 'Die Walküre' has no chorus at all and opens with an orchestral prelude. (And, particularly bearing in mind that a lot of the Nazis disliked Wagner, and that Wagner was much less regularly performed after the war started going against the Germans, isn't it time that popular writers stopped associating Wagner operas quite so much with Nazism? It's also not 'heavy music' at all if you listen to it!) There was also some odd naming: the German version of 'Frederick' is Friedrich, not Frederik, and as a French girl Edouard's sister would be more likely to be 'Sophie' than 'Sophia'. And Sarah is almost always a Jewish name in France, and I don't think Sarah the maid in this novel was meant to be Jewish? These errors were only mild irritations, but could have been prevented. I also felt that some of the terrible things that the characters suffered (Edouard's loss of Sophia, Alex's loss of the use of his legs, Emilie's abusive treatment at the hands of her mother) could have been treated in more psychological depth - though I suppose that might have made the novel a bleaker read.
All in all this book was great entertainment - Riley can tell a great story, and at times her tale can be very moving, and exciting. But the excess of cliches both romantic and historical and the avoidance of really confronting how the tragedies of World War II (for Constance and Edouard) and of a dysfunctional family and marriage (for Emilie) would have affected the characters stops me regarding the book as anything other than light down-time reading.
Three and a half stars.
I didn't enjoy this book as much as the author's previous novel, The Girl on the Cliff, though it was still an entertaining read. I do like Lucinda Riley's writing overall, but I couldn't help thinking that the dialogue in this book felt very stilted and unnatural. I have to mention it because it was something that really grated on me, especially in the first half of the book, though by the time I was halfway through I had been swept away by the story and after that any problems with the writing were less noticeable.
Whenever I read a novel set in more than one time period I usually (though not always) find that I become more involved in one than the other. Being a lover of historical fiction, it's not surprising that it tends to be the historical storyline that I prefer and that was the case again with this book. The contemporary story felt too predictable at times and there were too many plot developments that I found hard to believe, but the wartime story was fascinating and exciting. I've never read anything about the SOE (Special Operations Executive) before and it was so interesting to learn about their work in France and what it involved.
Another aspect of the book I want to mention is that two of the main characters are Nazi officers; one of them is not much more than a stereotype and is one of the novel's villains, but the other is portrayed more sympathetically, as someone who is not completely committed and having doubts about the Nazi regime. I thought this was an interesting perspective, but it would have been nice to have seen him actually do more to act on his concerns and I'm not sure I was really very comfortable with the way his story ended.
Despite having a few problems with The Light Behind the Window I'm looking forward to Lucinda Riley's next book and will hopefully get around to reading Hothouse Flower at some point too!
on 4 November 2013
I started this not knowing much about it, it sounded like my kind of book so I skimmed a few pages and decided to give it ago. From the moment I started reading it I was gripped. It tells the emotional and heartwrenching story of a young French woman in the 90's who is thrust into the deep dark secrets of her family during the Nazi invasion of France and the story of a young english spy during the war. The stories are written seperately but intertwined seamlessley leaving you desperate to read more.
I was not able to put this book down (So to speak as was reading it on my Kindle) and often read into the early hours of the morning just to find out what happened next. It is written beautifully and often left me reading faster and faster just to find out what happens next.
On several occassions I was close to tears - which shows how much emotion is contained within this lovely story.
I would say this is a must read for anyone. Possibly the best book I have ever read. I can't wait to order my next book by this Author - I know it will not dissapoint. I genuinely loved this book and the story is one which I will always think about.
on 23 June 2013
I am most disappointed to find that this is the same book as The Light behind the Window, too late to return, there should be a warning that this is not a new title, have nearly been caught before with other books.
on 22 November 2012
This is one of those rare books that you simply cannot put down. Lucinda Riley's writing is so descriptive you can imagine everything so clearly. I loved the two eras and all the characters.. Ive now ordered the rest of Lucinda's books, of which I intend to try and save one for a good read on my next vacation.