A question of survival

This is my review of La bicyclette bleue, Tome 2 : 101, avenue Henri-Martin : 1942-1944 by Régine Deforges.

In this sequel to "La Bicylette bleue" we see the feisty young "femme fatale" Lea Delmas enduring France under occupation in World War 2. The story is realistic as we see her struggling with a lack of food, the agony of not knowing what is happening to friends fighting with the Resistance, the uncertainty of how much to believe the news on the radio. Less plausible is the ability of suave teflon-coated superman François Tavernier to turn up in the nick of time to save her in a tight spot – and if not him, the slimebag Raphael Mahl, for whom we are supposed to have a soft spot because of his artistic nature and devotion to Lea. Tavernier's patronising male chauvinism towards Lea is possibly excusable for the 1940s, but I would like more detail on the nature of his important work and source of wealth.

Although I might be more critical if French were my first language, this is what you might call "a cracking yarn", eventful with many ingenious twists, by turns moving, tongue-in-cheek humorous and deeply shocking – the author has a vivid imagination. It provides a very entertaining way of extending one's vocabulary and knowledge of idioms.

Otherwise, what I have gained most is a greater appreciation of what it is like to be occupied, how lucky we are in England that this has not occurred for a thousand years, and how divided families are likely to be, with every reaction from total collaboration for personal gain, through passive acceptance out of fear of reprisals, to commitment to resisting, whatever the cost. So Lea switches between staying in Paris to support her sister Françoise who has had a baby by a German officer and accepting all the material benefits of this connection, to living back in the beloved family vineyard at Montillac, where her friend Camille is in continual illicit contact with her husband Laurent, deeply involved in the Resistance.

I shall certainly read the series up to the end of World War 2, but am less sure that my interest will last through all ten novels in the saga.

⭐⭐⭐⭐ 4 Stars

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