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Ils étaient cinq. Cinq soldats français condamnés à mort par le conseil de guerre pour s'être automutilés. Cinq soldats qu'on a jetés dans la neige de Picardie, un soir de janvier 1917, devant la tranchée ennemie, pour qu'on les tue. Toute une nuit et tout un jour, ils ont tenté désespérément de survivre. Le plus jeune était un Bleuet, il s'appelait Manech. Il n'avait pas Ils étaient cinq. Cinq soldats français condamnés à mort par le conseil de guerre pour s'être automutilés. Cinq soldats qu'on a jetés dans la neige de Picardie, un soir de janvier 1917, devant la tranchée ennemie, pour qu'on les tue. Toute une nuit et tout un jour, ils ont tenté désespérément de survivre. Le plus jeune était un Bleuet, il s'appelait Manech. Il n'avait pas vingt ans. Après la guerre, Mathilde, qui aime Manech d'un amour à l'épreuve de tout, va se battre pour le retrouver, mort ou vivant. Elle y sacrifiera ses jours, et malgré le temps qui passe, malgré les mensonges et la loi du silence, elle ira jusqu'au bout de l'espoir insensé qui la porte.


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Ils étaient cinq. Cinq soldats français condamnés à mort par le conseil de guerre pour s'être automutilés. Cinq soldats qu'on a jetés dans la neige de Picardie, un soir de janvier 1917, devant la tranchée ennemie, pour qu'on les tue. Toute une nuit et tout un jour, ils ont tenté désespérément de survivre. Le plus jeune était un Bleuet, il s'appelait Manech. Il n'avait pas Ils étaient cinq. Cinq soldats français condamnés à mort par le conseil de guerre pour s'être automutilés. Cinq soldats qu'on a jetés dans la neige de Picardie, un soir de janvier 1917, devant la tranchée ennemie, pour qu'on les tue. Toute une nuit et tout un jour, ils ont tenté désespérément de survivre. Le plus jeune était un Bleuet, il s'appelait Manech. Il n'avait pas vingt ans. Après la guerre, Mathilde, qui aime Manech d'un amour à l'épreuve de tout, va se battre pour le retrouver, mort ou vivant. Elle y sacrifiera ses jours, et malgré le temps qui passe, malgré les mensonges et la loi du silence, elle ira jusqu'au bout de l'espoir insensé qui la porte.

30 review for Un long dimanche de fiancailles Audiobook PACK [Book + CD - extracts only]

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jim Fonseca

    A story of WW I translated from the French. Just before the war begins, a young woman who is confined to a wheelchair meets the love of her life. Of course he goes off to war and perishes in the trenches. Little by little, over ten years, she learns odds and ends of details of what actually happened to him. We learn right at the beginning of the novel that so many soldiers were deserting and getting self-inflicted wounds that army officers decided to make an example of five such men. Instead of s A story of WW I translated from the French. Just before the war begins, a young woman who is confined to a wheelchair meets the love of her life. Of course he goes off to war and perishes in the trenches. Little by little, over ten years, she learns odds and ends of details of what actually happened to him. We learn right at the beginning of the novel that so many soldiers were deserting and getting self-inflicted wounds that army officers decided to make an example of five such men. Instead of shooting them by firing squad, they forced them out unarmed and bound between the French and German trenches at night in a bitter snowstorm. Her lover was one of these men. He died in a hail of bullets and a barrage of grenades or from the bitter cold. Or did he? She becomes an armchair (or wheelchair) detective with her long-time caretaker driving her to interview people. She places announcements in newspapers to get more information and hires a detective and the family lawyer to help out. Fortunately she is from a wealthy family. From little bits and pieces a fascinating tale emerges with a surprise ending. A very engaging book that won a French Literary award when published in 1991. (The Prix Interallie for the best work by a journalist.) I won’t quite say I couldn’t put it down – it drags in a couple of places – but almost!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Algernon (Darth Anyan)

    My love, I’m not able to write today, so a fellow Landis is writing this for me. Your face is all lit up, I can see you. I’m happy, I’m coming home. I would like to shout out my joy on the road, I’m coming home. I would like to kiss you the way you like me to, I’m coming home. I must step lively. Tomorrow is already Sunday, and we’re to be married Monday. Fragment of a letter sent from the trenches by a teenage soldier to his girlfriend, on a cold morning in January 1917. Jean Etchevery, affecti My love, I’m not able to write today, so a fellow Landis is writing this for me. Your face is all lit up, I can see you. I’m happy, I’m coming home. I would like to shout out my joy on the road, I’m coming home. I would like to kiss you the way you like me to, I’m coming home. I must step lively. Tomorrow is already Sunday, and we’re to be married Monday. Fragment of a letter sent from the trenches by a teenage soldier to his girlfriend, on a cold morning in January 1917. Jean Etchevery, affectionately called Manech by his fiancée Mathilde and ‘Cornflower’ by his comrades in arms, never gets home for his wedding. The very same day he is reported as “killed in the line of duty”. For two years, Mathilde lives with her grief, until one day another soldier sends her a letter revealing the cruel, criminal actions of the authorities that led to her fiancée’s death. Despite being confined to a wheelchair by a childhood accident that cost her the use of her legs, Mathilde is resolved to find out the truth about that fateful day, hoping against all odds that Manech had somehow survived. Esperanza sighs, “My dear girl”, and says that she has better ways to spend her youth – especially given her lot in life – than to go chasing the wind. Her desire to marry a fiancee lost in the war is a noble sentiment, but she should put all bitterness aside. Bingo Crepuscule was a trench among thousands, the sixth of January in 1917 was one day in the horror of fifteen thousand others, and Manech one unfortunate soul among millions of unhappy soldiers. A moving love story, a terrible account of the horrors of the Great War, a criminal investigation full of surprises, a panoramic view of France before, during and in the aftermath of the war – this novel has it all and Japrisot weaves the different threads with a mastery that made one reviewer compare it to the famous epic of Tolstoy – “War and Peace”. After turning the last page, such hyperbole doesn’t look as forced as I initially thought. I don’t remember many private investigators that are confined to a wheelchair. Mathilde has other qualities that compensate for her lack of mobility: perseverance, patience, attention to detail and tidiness in organizing the accumulation of clues. She may be motivated by love, but she goes about her quest in a very professional way. She’s not a lone wolf in the style of American hard-boiled, she uses all her friends and family and even hires people to help her in her search. Most of all, Mathilde writes letters and visits the relatives of the other four men who shared the fate of Manech on that desperate January morning, sent out into the no-man’s land between German and French trenches by their own comrades. It’s not easy to write an epistolary novel using multiple voices. It takes real talent to get the different backgrounds and the different temperaments right. Japrisot managed to switch styles for each new character relating his or her recollection of the events to Mathilde. With his experience writing crime fiction it is not a surprise that he builds the case carefully and keeps the reader guessing at the outcome until almost to the last page of the book. (view spoiler)[ my favourite part is the story of Tina Lombardi who re-enacts the Edmond Dantes story, taking revenge on the officers and politicians who sent her lover to die like an animal between trenches (hide spoiler)] . What surprised me in a good way was how well he tackled the romantic part of the story and how powerful is the evocation of the life in the trenches and of the lasting psychological scars left in the minds of the survivors. The term PTSD was unknown in 1917, but the following quote may explain the revolt of any reasonable person at the cruelty of punishing the young Manech whose mind collapses under prolonged exposure to stress: He was afraid of the war and of death, like almost everyone, but he was also afraid of the wind, that harbinger of gas attacks, afraid of a flare tearing through the night, afraid of himself, for he never knew what he might do when he was afraid, afraid of his own side’s artillery, afraid of his own gun, afraid of the whine of aerial torpedoes, afraid of mines that explode and engulf a whole section of infantry, afraid of the flooding that drowns you in the dugout, afraid of the earth that buries you alive, afraid of the stray blackbird that casts a sudden shadow before your eyes, afraid of the nightmares in which you always wind up gutted at the bottom of a shell hole, afraid of the sergeant who dreams of blowing your brains out because he’s fed up with carping at you, afraid of the rats that come for a little foretaste, sniffing you as you sleep, afraid of the lice and the crotch-crabs and the memories that suck your blood, afraid of everything. To find out if Manech or any of the other four doomed soldiers survived, you will need to read the novel, and not solely my review. I don’t have any reservation about recommending the novel, and I plan to both read more books by Sebastien Japrisot, and to watch the movie adaptation with Audrey Tatou and Marion Cotillard, two of the best new actresses in France. As an epitaph, I have chosen the words of one of the survivors, succinctly capturing the essence of the story: I’ll keep waiting, for as long as it takes, for this war to be seen in everyone’s eyes for what it always was, the most filthy, savage, useless obscenity that ever there was.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Chrissie

    Oh my, explaining why I have rated this three stars is complicated, just as complicated as the book is. When it ended, I liked it a lot. Very much in fact, so it should get four stars! Right? Except that if you have been following the comments I have been making about it at diverse places at GR you will have noted that I have been annoyed, exasperated and at wits' end as I read this book! So what is going on? As I stated, the book is complicated. If you are adept at solving mysteries and love pa Oh my, explaining why I have rated this three stars is complicated, just as complicated as the book is. When it ended, I liked it a lot. Very much in fact, so it should get four stars! Right? Except that if you have been following the comments I have been making about it at diverse places at GR you will have noted that I have been annoyed, exasperated and at wits' end as I read this book! So what is going on? As I stated, the book is complicated. If you are adept at solving mysteries and love paying close attention to every detail and love unraveling clues, then this book will be perfect for you! You will give it five stars. I am not talented at this. My response was to get thoroughly annoyed. In this book just about all the characters go by numerous names. They go by their name given at birth, their military rank, where they come from and other nicknames too. I jotted down all these details and still was lost much of the time. I was always asking, “Who is that?!” People change identities, there are coded letters that say something completely different from what you assume and people state what they think, but that isn’t always true. All of this put together annoyed me to pieces. I have already seen the movie, so I didn’t even start from scratch. By the end I pretty much understood everything, but not all. To achieve that, I would have to listen to the whole thing from start to finish a second time. At the end it occurred to me that perhaps the author is indeed making a point with all this confusion, particularly with the different names and identities. The confusion is intended; it is part of the message to be imparted by the book! What is the value of a name? Is it important? Does it matter who exactly did that deed? In all the horror of war what is one individual? This book wonderfully shows the absurdity and horror of war. This is its largest merit. This is why you should read the book. I have seen the movie in French. This too proved to be a source of confusion for me. Mathilde, who is looking for her fiancé, hoping that he has survived WW1, is portrayed very differently in the French movie and in the translated audiobook. How did the author intend her to be seen? In the film she was strong and smart, but sweet and lovely too. In the book she is flippant and sarcastically funny. (She is lame due to a childhood accident.) I object to seeing her portrayed so differently. Why? Although in both she is shown as a strong, determined woman, I felt that her flippant remarks didn’t jive with the setting, Picardy, France, during the first three decades of the 1900s. Here is an example: Mathilde wants to take off to follow another clue, having just that day returned home. When she suggests another trip, Sylvan responds: “It is not me that is going to squawk. Bibi (his wife) is the one who won’t be pleased.” Leaning forward in her chair, Mathilde murmurs insidiously and ardently, “Give her a good work out tonight. Let’s hear the rafters ring. She always adores you afterwards. She will be putty in our hands. (Book two, track 4, of the audiobook) I assume you understand how Bibi was to be softened. The next day, off they go, exactly as planned, without a word from Bibi. These words are stranger still given that Mathilde has been raised for many years, almost as a daughter, in their home. Too often the language is too modern. It doesn’t feel either French in character or appropriate for the 1920s. Has the book been poorly translated from French? I listened to the audiobook narrated by Isabel Keating. Has she exaggerated the flippant lines of the translation? Something has gone wrong. The atmosphere, which I so loved in the original French film, was gone from the audiobook presentation. So I will give the book three stars. If I were one who loved solving mysteries, I would have given it four. You decided if the mystery solving will entice or annoy you. I do think it very well shows what actually happens in war. It shows the total absurdity of war. It shows trench warfare at its ugliest. It showed how people were destroyed by the war. Then, at the very end, it also showed how people picked themselves up and made a new life. So it was not depressing. It did not at all end on a sour note. People are strong. All of us are, if we just decide to be. Some pick up the loose ends and go on to make a good life for themselves. Having finished the book I feel it merits four stars, but I did complain a lot, so I am giving it three. Read it rather than listen to it and read it in French if you can. You may then give it five stars. The movie was worth five stars. One more thing: the story is just too complicated for an audiobook.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Connie G

    The French trenches on the Western Front during World War I were muddy, cold, and infested with lice and rats. The men lived in constant danger, and saw their good friends die by their sides. Some soldiers suffered "shell shock", some deserted, some committed suicide, and others wounded themselves to get away from this hell on earth. The book opens as five soldiers, who have allegedly shot themselves in the hand, walk through the mud to the Front. Their punishment is to be brought to the area be The French trenches on the Western Front during World War I were muddy, cold, and infested with lice and rats. The men lived in constant danger, and saw their good friends die by their sides. Some soldiers suffered "shell shock", some deserted, some committed suicide, and others wounded themselves to get away from this hell on earth. The book opens as five soldiers, who have allegedly shot themselves in the hand, walk through the mud to the Front. Their punishment is to be brought to the area between the French trenches and the enemy trenches where probable death awaits them. Mathilde, the fiancee of Manech, has been told by officials that he died on the battlefield. But she receives a letter from a dying soldier who tells her that Manech was one of the five soldiers with the self-inflicted wounds. The soldier thinks that one or more of them may still be alive. Mathilde is in a wheelchair but she has an intelligent mind, a strong spirit, and a deep love for Manech. With the help of her wealthy father, her chauffeur, and a detective, Mathilde contacts the families of the other four men, as well as other soldiers, to get more information. She receives conflicting accounts of their final days, so we don't know if Manech and the other four men survived until the end of the book. Mathilde's contacts show us the terrible effects of the war on the civilian population as well as the military. The novel is a mystery, a World War I story, and a love story as it flashes back to Manech's and Mathilde's relationship. The book can be a little confusing at first since the characters are called by several names, so it helps to jot down their nicknames and professions. For example, Jean Etchervery is Manech, Cornflower, and the fisherman. Throughout the book there is a great warmth and respect displayed by the living soldiers toward their fallen comrades and the widows who are dealing with so much pain.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle

    Neither truly a love story, nor a war story, nor a detective story, this book somehow manages to be all three, but also much more: it's a book about the painful complications of being human in a situation where nothing makes sense and about how one disabled young woman will let nothing stop her from getting to the truth. In this intricately plotted novel, Japrisot tells the story of Mathilde, a wheelchair-bound painter from Cap Breton, who's beloved fiancé Manech is sent to the Great War. All the Neither truly a love story, nor a war story, nor a detective story, this book somehow manages to be all three, but also much more: it's a book about the painful complications of being human in a situation where nothing makes sense and about how one disabled young woman will let nothing stop her from getting to the truth. In this intricately plotted novel, Japrisot tells the story of Mathilde, a wheelchair-bound painter from Cap Breton, who's beloved fiancé Manech is sent to the Great War. All the is told is that he is dead, but she refuses to accept such a simple statement; she needs to know when and how. As she digs for information about her fiancé, she discovers the convoluted tale of a small detachment of soldiers who deliberately mutilated themselves, and as punishment for their act of "cowardice", were pushed into No Man's Land, between the French and German trenches, where it was hoped they would get shot by enemy fire. Was Manech there? Is that how he died? Mathilde will learn the story of the other four soldiers who were with Manech in that dreadful trench, what their lives were before the War, and she will learn the story of the women they left behind and who also moved Heaven and Earth to get answers and justice for their loves. This is quite a unique little book. The epistolary format works perfect, as Japrisot created strong individual voices for all his characters, and gives the reader and unusual leading lady that you can't help but root for. Mathilde is grouchy, stubborn, pushy and sometimes unkind and manipulative, but she is very intelligent and is, at the end of the day, motivated by the strength of her love and devotion for Manech. This makes her a lovable and admirable heroine - no wonder people want to help her as much as they can. The other characters are just as scuffed and quirky as she is, very human in their mistakes and regrets. This book is as much about unraveling the mystery of the trench as it is about showing that the War destroyed much more than soldiers' bodies and minds, that every little aspect of life was impacted by its violent senselessness. And yes, there are moments where its a bit of a tear-jerker, but it's also comforting to read about the stubbornness of hope, and it's refusal to admit defeat. It can be a confusing read at times, because characters often have multiple nicknames by which people refer to them, and the prose sometimes looses itself it attempts to be pretty (which it absolutely is, but you can take a breath every once in a while, Sébastien!), but its such a affecting tale, such a harrowing description of war without ever falling into the trap of garish details, that I feel bad taking away a single star from my rating. Evocative, moving and devastating. A lovely movie was made from this novel, starring Audrey Tautou - at the time where she seemed to be in every single movie French studios churned out. But as over-saturated as I was by her presence for awhile, I truly loved that film, which was perfectly cast, beautifully acted and shot in a splendid nostalgic style, down the sepia tone of the light and colors.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Elizabeth (Alaska)

    This is a powerful novel which touches on how war can destroy the human psyche. As I read, I thought that each of us has a breaking point. Some reach that point sooner than others, and, if we're lucky, most of us never have to find out for ourselves what triggers it. The five men of the GR description reached their breaking point and chose self-mutilation in order to avoid further time at the front. Each has been court-martialed for that offense and sentenced to death. Instead of facing the firi This is a powerful novel which touches on how war can destroy the human psyche. As I read, I thought that each of us has a breaking point. Some reach that point sooner than others, and, if we're lucky, most of us never have to find out for ourselves what triggers it. The five men of the GR description reached their breaking point and chose self-mutilation in order to avoid further time at the front. Each has been court-martialed for that offense and sentenced to death. Instead of facing the firing squad, their sentence was to be sent over the top into No Mans' land to await their discovery by the Germans. The novel is mostly taken up with the story of one young woman, Mathilde Donnay, who was engaged to the youngest of the five. She, and the families of the other four, were notified of their loved one's death as having been honorable in the line of duty. Mathilde learns such may not have been the case. A determined woman, she tries to learn the truth of what happened that day. I have read a few books of late where I didn't like any of the characters. This novel is quite the opposite - I liked everyone. Of course, there were some soldiers referred to who were not likeable, but they were not the actual characters in the book, just those spoken about. But while "the five" had reached their breaking point, there were heroes as well. I quite liked Mathilde, who had been in a wheel chair since the age of three. Sylvain, one of her care givers, was marvelous. There were soldiers who had been there on "that day" who shared their memories - and not necessarily memories of themselves, but of others. While I have given more plot than I usually do in my reviews, I never felt this was solely a plot-driven novel. Some might think so. The writing fits the story perfectly, and the manner in which the story is told is varied. Mathilde wrote letters, and though the contents of her letters are never included, we get the contents of her responders. I found the characterizations of the main characters to be quite good, and even those of the minor characters was more a good cameo than wooden representations. I don't know if I would read more by this author or not, as I haven't looked to see anything about other titles or whether they have been translated. I wanted to read this novel in my pursuance of learning/experiencing more about World War One. It served that purpose magnificently, and am more than happy to give it a full 5-stars.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Krystal

    I recall being profoundly moved by this book, and the turmoil of its characters. I read it many, many years ago (likely around the time of the film release) and enjoyed it so much more than I expected. It's well written and creates a really beautiful story.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Colleen

    I LOVED this book. And I loved the main character, Mathilde, more than just about any character in any book I've ever read. She is strong, sarcastic, always gets what she wants, and has a good sense of humor. Mathilde, despite her sarcasm and pig-headedness seems to inspire devotion in everyone she meets. How could you not admire someone who accomplishes as much as she does despite being in a wheelchair? How can you not admire her devotion to Manech? She would not rest until she got to the botto I LOVED this book. And I loved the main character, Mathilde, more than just about any character in any book I've ever read. She is strong, sarcastic, always gets what she wants, and has a good sense of humor. Mathilde, despite her sarcasm and pig-headedness seems to inspire devotion in everyone she meets. How could you not admire someone who accomplishes as much as she does despite being in a wheelchair? How can you not admire her devotion to Manech? She would not rest until she got to the bottom of what happened to him. And the mystery of what happened to Manech and four other soldiers who were thrown into No-Man's Land by their own leaders keeps you reading on and on. There are so many different versions of what happened that Mathilde's investigation is constantly taking one step forward and two steps back. But there's a constant feeling of momentum--you know Mathilde will get to the bottom of this. As time goes on she gets closer to solving the mystery by meeting people who are closer to what finally happened to Manech. This is such a wonderful story of love and devotion, but don't worry, it never gets sappy. Mathilde would have hated that!

  9. 5 out of 5

    Crystal Starr Light

    I've been reviewing for over 5 years. In that time, there is only one book that I ever started that I did not finish. Well, now that number is increasing to two. I won't give a summary as many, many others have given a really detailed summary that is far better than anything I could ever have done justice to. Instead, let me tell you why I stopped at page 113 and why I have no inclination to finish this book. The first twenty pages are spent introducing five soldiers--their names, their prison num I've been reviewing for over 5 years. In that time, there is only one book that I ever started that I did not finish. Well, now that number is increasing to two. I won't give a summary as many, many others have given a really detailed summary that is far better than anything I could ever have done justice to. Instead, let me tell you why I stopped at page 113 and why I have no inclination to finish this book. The first twenty pages are spent introducing five soldiers--their names, their prison numbers, their family, their main characteristics. The next thirty or so pages are spent reintroducing those five soldiers and continuing a few moments ahead in their story. And finally, at page 60, we are introduced, in a large, very exposition-heavy 5 page section, our main character. I found the writing is terribly confusing. I don't know if it was meant to be that way, or if that is a fault of translating from French, or maybe I am just plain stupid, but sentences sounded weird, the writing was dense, and I had to start skimming in order to make any progress in this book. The book is written in present tense, but that felt more unwieldy and clumsy than some YA books I've read. Sections switched points of view sometimes without a section break, leading from first-person to third-person in just a paragraph. And it seems an omniscient narrator is dictating this...except for a few places where I thought it was Mathilde. The characters are painfully dull. First of all, I could hardly keep them all straight. They were like a deck of only red cards, which the author flashed at me. I couldn't tell who was a diamond, who was a heart, if that person was a 3 of hearts or perhaps a 6 of diamonds. The characters were so flat, it would be a compliment to call them two-dimensional. About the only one I cared for was the soldier wrongfully accused of self-mutilation...and I have absolutely no idea what his name is or who he is beyond that he didn't self-mutilate and was wrongfully charged. Mathilde was a horrible character, in my opinion. She was stiff, unlikeable (calling random people "sh!t kicker" is NOT a way to endear a character to me), and oddly characterized. I don't mind having a woman proud of her body, but this passage just doesn't sound like any woman I know: "She has very lovely breasts. She's proud of them: they're heavy, well-rounded, and softer than silk. When she caresses her nipples she soon feels like making love. She makes love all by herself." Male fantasy? Bad translation? A very, extremely confident woman that I've never encountered? I don't have a clue. Mathilde exchanges letters with various people. These people are startlingly open about their private lives, sometimes going on pages and pages (when they supposedly aren't big on writing) to detail every last detail of that person's life to a complete stranger. The story is supposed to be about a mystery, but it really didn't kick into gear until the last 20 pages that I read. Even then, I have no drive to figure it out. I predict one of three outcomes: 1) Mathilde finds Manech and reunites (sure, a litfic book is really going to choose the "happily ever after" ending), 2) Mathilde finds Manech and doesn't reunite (most likely), and 3) Mathilde finds Manech dead (too depressing, even for a litfic book). It doesn't really matter what ending will be chosen. Lessons will be Learned; People will Change; Morals will be Passed on. (view spoiler)[I read the last 20 pages or so and looks like I was right--Mathilde does find Manech, but he has lost his memory, so she leaves him in his new life. (hide spoiler)] And this is why I am giving up on this book. There is no way I can force myself to read another page, and with so many other better books out there, I am going to pass on this one. HOWEVER, just because I didn't like it, doesn't mean it's horrible. I rated it 2 stars because "I didn't like it"; I'm sure lots of people who love mysteries, historicals, and books about World War I will love this. To them, I say, go ahead and give this book a try. I hope you have a much more enjoyable read than I did.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Laura

    Perhaps this is better in the original French? It opens promisingly enough: on a dark January night in 1917, five soldiers are hauled up to the bizarrely named Bingo Crépuscule trench and forced into No Man’s Land as punishment for wounding themselves in order to get out of the war. Ostensibly, by the next day all are killed by German fire. However, a letter sent in 1919 to the fiancée of one of the dead soldiers leads her to believe otherwise. She embarks on a search to trace anyone who might k Perhaps this is better in the original French? It opens promisingly enough: on a dark January night in 1917, five soldiers are hauled up to the bizarrely named Bingo Crépuscule trench and forced into No Man’s Land as punishment for wounding themselves in order to get out of the war. Ostensibly, by the next day all are killed by German fire. However, a letter sent in 1919 to the fiancée of one of the dead soldiers leads her to believe otherwise. She embarks on a search to trace anyone who might know what actually happened, a search made both more difficult and more interesting by her physical limitations (she’s wheelchair bound) and the devastation of post-war France. Mathilde’s search is certainly intriguing, if a bit circuitous. Also intriguing are the unfolding stories of the five soldiers' lives and war time service. However, some of the characters are a bit coarse. It’s a decent mystery and an interesting look into the nightmare of World War I, but not the most compelling novel I’ve ever read.

  11. 4 out of 5

    JimZ

    I halfway through this book had lost much of the enthusiasm that I had at the beginning of the book. The premise was interesting – that five French soldiers in WWI who intentionally shot themselves in the hand so they could get discharged and avoid getting killed in the trenches in the senseless bloody trench warfare got sentences of death imposed on them and rather than execution by firing squad were sent to the front lines with their hands tied behind their back and sent into no-man’s land pre I halfway through this book had lost much of the enthusiasm that I had at the beginning of the book. The premise was interesting – that five French soldiers in WWI who intentionally shot themselves in the hand so they could get discharged and avoid getting killed in the trenches in the senseless bloody trench warfare got sentences of death imposed on them and rather than execution by firing squad were sent to the front lines with their hands tied behind their back and sent into no-man’s land presumably to get butchered up by bullets from the Germans in the opposite trenches (or by their own countrymen firing at the Germans). But did things turn out that way? Did they all die? That was what a fiancé, Mathilde, a fiancé of one of the soldiers, Manech, asked, and was not swayed by the evidence that trickled back to her over several years from various sources via letters or visits to others or employing detectives. She was not convinced of his death at least in the manner that was told to her in dribs and drabs. At first the letters and visitors with their reminisces were interesting but then there were just too many of them. It was hard to keep track of them all (letters, visitors) and to put them in some sort of accumulating body of evidence. Clues were surreptitiously thrown in throughout the chapters, but not of enough substance to make things click, and so I was at that stage that I sometimes reach with books: “Screw it. I’ve read this far, and I just want to get this over with.” But then some things were revealed near the end of the book (the chapter, The Sunflowers at the End of the World), and a number of things all of a sudden made sense. And I liked how the book ended. And so the book to me changed from a book I did not like to a book that was OK. But that is not why I read - to have a mindset through a good deal of the book that I don’t like it and I just want it to end. I have a suspicion I am in the minority on this one (judging from book reviews I am). I do not think the author should have disclosed something that was important about the letters rather late in the book: that soldiers when writing back to their loved ones would often write in code to avoid their letters getting edits or destroyed by censors. Perhaps then as I read many of the letters in the beginning I could at least be assuaged by the fact that later on in the book the confusing letters would all of a sudden make sense. I don’t know – I don’t even think that would help. Confusing letters are confusing letters. I at best can give this book a tepid like (2 stars). Why I think I am in the minority is that the summary on the back cover of the book stated that this was a runaway bestseller in France and the winner of the 1991 Prix Interallie, as well as the accolades on the front pages of the book before the actual novel begins. One reviewer says “It has been a battle to avoid writing of Sebastien Japrisot’s novel about World War I as a kind of latter-day ‘War and Peace’. I lost. It is a kind of ‘War and Peace’.” (Richard Eder, LA Times Book Review). Other reviews: https://www.independent.co.uk/arts-en... JimZ: This reviewer from The Independent (UK) when waxing poetic about this book had this to say halfway through the review which perhaps will exonerate me and my tepid rating of this book: “Every detail in the patchwork has its relevance, and the reader who fails to give the book full concentration will soon be floundering.” I guess I was one of those inept readers who failed to give this book at the outset and throughout my full and rapt attention. ☹ https://www.nytimes.com/1993/09/21/bo... This book was also made into a movie (starring Audrey Tautou) that received uniformly good reviews.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Célia Loureiro

    Amazing Japrisot, such story. It almost didn't fit my small mind. I had to read it, then watch the movie (sublime, by the way - by Jean Pierre Jeunet), and then read it again in order to understand both book and movie. It took me some time until I realize who was who - so many names, so many nicknames to these names - and it finally hit me: how genious this author can be. Amazing the way it all made sense in the end. Educating. Thrilling. I always go back to the last scene of the film, and it ma Amazing Japrisot, such story. It almost didn't fit my small mind. I had to read it, then watch the movie (sublime, by the way - by Jean Pierre Jeunet), and then read it again in order to understand both book and movie. It took me some time until I realize who was who - so many names, so many nicknames to these names - and it finally hit me: how genious this author can be. Amazing the way it all made sense in the end. Educating. Thrilling. I always go back to the last scene of the film, and it makes me shiver every time.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Mary-jane

    the movie was perfect!!!I see how the book plays out!!!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Susan

    This was a wonderful novel -- with fascinating characters, a good mystery, plus an interwoven love story. I learned a lot about WWI in France, about France during that time period, and about French geography. What is remarkable about this novel is the way that the clues are many tiny snippets of information, told by different people in different ways. Over the years, the protagonist gathers these snippets (often helped by her many assistants) and fits them together. Reading the book requires careful This was a wonderful novel -- with fascinating characters, a good mystery, plus an interwoven love story. I learned a lot about WWI in France, about France during that time period, and about French geography. What is remarkable about this novel is the way that the clues are many tiny snippets of information, told by different people in different ways. Over the years, the protagonist gathers these snippets (often helped by her many assistants) and fits them together. Reading the book requires careful attention. I thought of a lecture by Bob Woodward that I attended where he discussed how he does research for his books: he does many hours of interviews and investigation, fills files with the results, and then goes back and painstakingly puts all the tiny bits together to make something out of it. [As an aside, Woodward was the one played by Robert Redford--not Dustin Hoffman-- in the movie version of the well-known Woodward and Bernstein book, "All the President's Men.":]

  15. 4 out of 5

    Jan C

    Fascinating. Five French soldiers had enough of war and tried to give themselves a blighty by shooting themselves in the hand. Instead, they are sentenced to death. There were more than five but the others were commuted to life imprisonment for one reason or another. But, France had outlawed firing squads. So the five were thrown, bound, to no man's land and left to their own devices. Both sides could shoot at them. One of the five is engaged to Mathilde Donnay. She doesn't seem to be the girl to Fascinating. Five French soldiers had enough of war and tried to give themselves a blighty by shooting themselves in the hand. Instead, they are sentenced to death. There were more than five but the others were commuted to life imprisonment for one reason or another. But, France had outlawed firing squads. So the five were thrown, bound, to no man's land and left to their own devices. Both sides could shoot at them. One of the five is engaged to Mathilde Donnay. She doesn't seem to be the girl to give up. She wants to know what happened to her fiancée and the other four men. Some people are more helpful than others. Isn't that always the way. In 2013 I read about 10 pp and hadn't picked it up since then. Just goes to show, you never know treasures you have lurking on your bookshelves. And it may take more than 10 pages to let you know how good it is. Apparently a bestseller in France before it was translated.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nick Davies

    I bought this book because I enjoyed the film. I bought the film because I think Audrey Tatou is lovely. I left it a good couple of years between watching the film and reading the book 'cause I wished to forget much of the plot and enjoy the story anew, and I was glad I did this. This was quite different to most books I read normally, but it was enjoyable indeed - an interesting and complex tale of a young French woman trying to get to the bottom of what happened to her fiancé, disgraced during W I bought this book because I enjoyed the film. I bought the film because I think Audrey Tatou is lovely. I left it a good couple of years between watching the film and reading the book 'cause I wished to forget much of the plot and enjoy the story anew, and I was glad I did this. This was quite different to most books I read normally, but it was enjoyable indeed - an interesting and complex tale of a young French woman trying to get to the bottom of what happened to her fiancé, disgraced during WWI and with four other French soldiers thrown into no-man's-land to their fates, for invaliding themselves to get away from the trenches. Lots of beautiful complexity, an interesting mix of narrative and epistolary style, evocative and touching too. A powerful insight into the human nature of war and what war leaves behind.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Denisa Arsene

    The story is sweet and nice, following the hard efforts of a girl who tries to discover what happened to her fiancé. I would though want a bit more action, not so many letter describing the actions. I couldn't tell the end until it was almost there - even though I hoped for it. All in one it is a nice good story. 3.5 stars it's what I feel good with.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lainey

    A Very Long Engagement tells the story of Mathilde, a woman who has been told that her fiance, Manech, died in the war. Something seems fishy about his death so she begins to investigate. She wants to know what happened to him, and something keeps telling her that he is still alive somewhere. She soon learns of five soldiers condemned to death for self-mutilation, one of them was Manech. The reader unravels the clues along with Mathilde as she receives more and more information about her fiance' A Very Long Engagement tells the story of Mathilde, a woman who has been told that her fiance, Manech, died in the war. Something seems fishy about his death so she begins to investigate. She wants to know what happened to him, and something keeps telling her that he is still alive somewhere. She soon learns of five soldiers condemned to death for self-mutilation, one of them was Manech. The reader unravels the clues along with Mathilde as she receives more and more information about her fiance's mysterious death. Honestly, I did not like this book at all. There were too many characters and unnecessary details. The whole book was very confusing and I didn't actually understand what happened until the Chapter where she talks to "That Man". I also did not think that this book taught me a lot about WWI. I wasn't expecting too be a history book of course, but I thought I might take something away from it. If I learned anything, it was that the people fighting in the war were not good to there soldiers. Some of them lied and some were thieves, it seems that they were not very good people. I also thought maybe it would give me a better idea of life in France at the time, but again, I was mistaken. It does not describe France from the point of view of an average French woman or even someone without bias at all, it shows France from Mathilde's perspective. Mathilde is not average at all. First of all, she is in a wheel chair so people treat her differently (and I will have to agree with her character that just because she is in a wheel chair, it doesn't mean she is any different, but not everyone in France thinks the way we do). Second, she doesn't describe France because she lives there and why would she need to show the reader something she has already seen. What I mean is, if I was writing a diary entry and I said: "I walked into my room." I wouldn't describe what my room looks like. I already know what it looks like! Adding "it was small, and my clothes were all over the floor." would not make any difference to me because I am the one reading it and I already know what my room looks like. The book was written for the benefit of the character, Mathilde, so therefore she does not need to give an accurate description of France because she already knows what it is like. Third, Mathilde was looking for her "dead" fiance. How many women had the time and the means to go and investigate the death of there loved ones? In the book there were two. One was Mathilde and the other was Angelo's lover. All of the other widows accepted the fact that there husbands were dead and had to go on with there lives because they had to support themselves and/or their children. Mathilde however, had this unlimited supply of cash to fund her investigation and she didn't have to work at al. She basically had all the time in the world and all the resources she needed at her fingertips. I feel like this was not the usual case for widowed women in France after WWI. There were too many characters, places, different perspectives, names and it was all too much to keep track of. I also did not think this was a good book to read to help me understand life after WWI. I did not like this book, and I wont recommend it to my friends. I will probably recommend the movie though. I thought the movie was much better than the book. The characters annoyed me (mostly Mathilde), but it is much easier to understand. It also provides a good visual of France at the time, and the trenches.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Idarah

    Japrisot is a genius! A wonderful, wonderful book! At the end, everything just came together and I was so moved! How can someone have such an intense love for another individual? And the details...I felt like I was in the trenches along with the five soldiers. I MUST read this book (physically) in case I missed anything. Too bad a lot of his work has yet to be translated to English.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Carmel

    I was unimpressed by this book. The author's writing style was confusing to follow, as he wrote it in present tense and avoided writing conversations using quotations. The plot jumped from one point to another very quickly and with out much notice. There were also too many characters to easily keep track of. The five soldiers each have a name, nickname(s), and number, along with multiple relatives and friends who also have nicknames. It was hard to keep track of all the different relationships a I was unimpressed by this book. The author's writing style was confusing to follow, as he wrote it in present tense and avoided writing conversations using quotations. The plot jumped from one point to another very quickly and with out much notice. There were also too many characters to easily keep track of. The five soldiers each have a name, nickname(s), and number, along with multiple relatives and friends who also have nicknames. It was hard to keep track of all the different relationships and the feelings behind the relationships. Much of the story was told through letters, most of which would randomly start with no introduction. I also felt that much of the plot was unrealistic. I'm not an expert on Post-WWI France, but I doubt that this young orphaned woman would have the money and connections to travel all over France whenever she wanted to. In addition, she wrote letters to and visited many people that she had never met before, then proceeded to ask them very personal questions involving their relationships with people. Almost every time, she got a detailed answer! I don't think that that many people would have shared such personal information to someone that they'd never met. One woman writes to Mathilde after being clearly asked not to by her goddaughter. Why would she write everything to Mathilde, a person she doesn't know, against the wishes of a close relative? At the same time, I thought that the plot as a whole was interesting. The mystery of the fate of the five soldiers was exciting to learn as each new clue was uncovered. I wasn't satisfied by the end, though it made sense. Watching the movie after reading the book was very helpful to understand the plot. Overall, I would recommend this book to a mystery-loving person who can keep track of multiple characters.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    In January 1917, five wounded French soldiers, their hands bound behind them, are brought to the front at Picardy by their own troops, forced into the no-man's land between the French and German armies, and left to die in the cross fire. Their brutal punishment has been hushed up for more than two years when Mathilde Donnay, unable to walk since childhood, begins a quest to find out whether her fiancé, officially "killed in the line of duty," might still be alive. Mathilde moves throughout the c In January 1917, five wounded French soldiers, their hands bound behind them, are brought to the front at Picardy by their own troops, forced into the no-man's land between the French and German armies, and left to die in the cross fire. Their brutal punishment has been hushed up for more than two years when Mathilde Donnay, unable to walk since childhood, begins a quest to find out whether her fiancé, officially "killed in the line of duty," might still be alive. Mathilde moves throughout the country for information about the men. She encounters many people along the way with different information as well as meeting the loved ones of the other families that the men left behind. This was a bestseller in France and is sort of a mystery, a look into the different ways one story can be told, and a look at life in France during and after the First World War. Because of the many French names I got confused sometimes and wish the characters had been more developed, especially Matilde and her fiancé, Manech. If I would have been more invested in their personalities, I would have been more interested in the outcome.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Briynne

    This was so very lovely. It's earned a place on my mental "best books to recommend to acquaintances who ask me what they should read because they know I'm a librarian" list. The book is simultaneously an effortless historical novel set in WWI-era France, an intricate mystery, and a sincere and deeply-felt love story. I was so hooked on this book that when I accidentally left it my office desk drawer two nights ago, I felt positively forlorn and moped around the house all evening, such had been m This was so very lovely. It's earned a place on my mental "best books to recommend to acquaintances who ask me what they should read because they know I'm a librarian" list. The book is simultaneously an effortless historical novel set in WWI-era France, an intricate mystery, and a sincere and deeply-felt love story. I was so hooked on this book that when I accidentally left it my office desk drawer two nights ago, I felt positively forlorn and moped around the house all evening, such had been my anticipation for finishing it. I would defy someone to not like this book. The heroine, Mathilde, is funny, and mule-headed, and completely delightful. I loved the secondary characters as well; Japrisot's women are phenomenal and their stories weave together around those of the soldiers so beautifully and unexpectedly. Someone go pick up this book and tell me what you think!

  23. 5 out of 5

    daniella

    I read this book during my last life-altering interval, and I sobbed through the last twenty pages . Out and out sobbed. Tears, running nose, inadvertent noises, the whole deal. It's beautiful. Plain and simple beautiful. Mathilde is such a simply strong character, the sparse dialogue allows the story to move without interruption and to exist in its own space and time, and the predominantly female cast is varied and distinct. What a brilliant man to create such women so inherently unique and real I read this book during my last life-altering interval, and I sobbed through the last twenty pages . Out and out sobbed. Tears, running nose, inadvertent noises, the whole deal. It's beautiful. Plain and simple beautiful. Mathilde is such a simply strong character, the sparse dialogue allows the story to move without interruption and to exist in its own space and time, and the predominantly female cast is varied and distinct. What a brilliant man to create such women so inherently unique and real. The novel seems effortless, no small achievement.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Tracey

    Can't believe I actually finsihed this book. Several times I wanted to give up but I kept thinking/hoping it was going to get better. The plot itself was interesting and had potential. In a nutshell this book is about France and post WWI and young woman looking for her fiance who is delcared MIA. Some of the little stories and flashbacks were interesting but this book was long and boring at times. Also the characters were confusing. I give it two stars for not being terrible but could have been Can't believe I actually finsihed this book. Several times I wanted to give up but I kept thinking/hoping it was going to get better. The plot itself was interesting and had potential. In a nutshell this book is about France and post WWI and young woman looking for her fiance who is delcared MIA. Some of the little stories and flashbacks were interesting but this book was long and boring at times. Also the characters were confusing. I give it two stars for not being terrible but could have been about half the legnth.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cindy Eliza

    Oh. My. Goodness. This book took my breathe away, broke my heart, mended it, and surprised me to no end. Absolutely brilliantly written.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Desiree

    While there is a cornucopia of novels out there about World War II, stories about The Great War are just a bit harder to find. Told in a deeply atmospheric style, as if remembering a dream, or looking at color photos faded to sepia, this tale “stuck” with me for months after putting it down. I learned so much from this novel – things that should be taught in World History class, or perhaps were and I just forgot. Wild poppies in France. No Man’s Land. Deserters and self-induced injuries or purpos While there is a cornucopia of novels out there about World War II, stories about The Great War are just a bit harder to find. Told in a deeply atmospheric style, as if remembering a dream, or looking at color photos faded to sepia, this tale “stuck” with me for months after putting it down. I learned so much from this novel – things that should be taught in World History class, or perhaps were and I just forgot. Wild poppies in France. No Man’s Land. Deserters and self-induced injuries or purposeful recklessness. The called it The War to End All Wars and you certainly feel that when reading. If you love historical fiction, a novel that transports you to another time, or learning history told through the lense of fiction, then I highly recommend “A Very Long Engagement”.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Five soldiers, all found guilty of maiming themselves to escape the war, are sent out into No Man's Land and left for dead. Five bodies are recovered and buried, their loved ones told they were killed in action. Mathilde, the fiancée of one of the men, sets out to determine what happened. A Very Long Engagement begins with an interesting premise. It combines mystery with the misery of the Great War and seems to suggest a well-developed female lead character. I was keen to read this, especially si Five soldiers, all found guilty of maiming themselves to escape the war, are sent out into No Man's Land and left for dead. Five bodies are recovered and buried, their loved ones told they were killed in action. Mathilde, the fiancée of one of the men, sets out to determine what happened. A Very Long Engagement begins with an interesting premise. It combines mystery with the misery of the Great War and seems to suggest a well-developed female lead character. I was keen to read this, especially since it was published by Vintage Classics and I was excited to read it when I started. And yet the whole experience was miserable. I read the first chapter, closed the book and didn't pick it up for two days because I loathed the whole "couple so in love they'd self harm to be with each other". Yes, Japrisot makes it clear that Manech – Mathilde's fiancé – was suffering from shell-shock but he also explicitly states that Manech twice injured himself to be with Mathilde. And if you think that Mathilide's any more rational, the chapter concludes with: She tells herself that if this wire doesn't lead her back to her lover, that's all right, she can always use it to hang herself. (p. 27)Sweet baby Jesus. And then there's the fact that what this book is crying out for is an editor who can say to Japrisot, "actually, dude, you need to pick a name – one name – for each of the five soldiers and all the other characters in your story and stick to it". Or at least give the readers a list of characters with all aliases and nicknames listed. Because he gives them at least three names each, uses them all variously and indiscriminately and expects the reader to keep up and not sit there trying to work out who's who. I found the book crass at times – a paragraph dedicated to Mathilde's breasts, a patch of dialogue where Mathilde encourages one of her interchangeable sidekicks to give his wife such a great orgasm that "the rafters ring" so the wife won't complain about him taking Mathilde out the next day. Crass and disturbing that the heroine would treat another woman – one who cared for her – like that. Leading on from that is the character of Mathilde. She had had potential, I don't deny it, and I thought that the decision to make her wheelchair-bound added something different and interesting to the story. And I think Japrisot meant for Mathilde to be a plucky and brave woman, and sure, she was driven and I admired her courage, but that was pretty much it. There's the way she talks about her friend in the paragraph immediately above, there's the fact that her whole life seems to be dedicated to finding Manech, there's the fact that everyone goes out of their way to tell her what she wants to know. And there's the impatience she shows when dealing with other World War I veterans, the sense that she doesn't give a fig about their trauma and experiences, and that she wishes they'd just hurry up and tell her about her darling beloved Manech. So, no, I didn't like her. I didn't find her sympathetic at all and given how much was just given to her because she asked, I didn't find her relatable. The prose is difficult and stiff – just plain unenjoyable. Now that I think of it, I'd call it ugly, which might be appropriate for a book about World War I, but it's not an exquisite ugliness or an ugliness that's painful for the horrors it invokes. It's ugly and boring and unnecessarily complex. I gave up on deciphering the characters and events and just rolled with it – which made for a safer option. So that's, what, five strikes against the book? It's a thoroughly miserable book that I do not recommend to anyone at all.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Thomas Sypkens

    A Very Long Engagement is a book about A girl named Mathilde who is trying to find out what happened to her fiance Manech. In the beginning of the book Mathilde hears news that her fiance was given the death sentence along with four other men for self mutilation as a way to get out of the army in World War I. She also hears that a one or two of them might have lived. A new determination comes within her to find her lost fiance. The little hope she has keeps her going on her search. The problem w A Very Long Engagement is a book about A girl named Mathilde who is trying to find out what happened to her fiance Manech. In the beginning of the book Mathilde hears news that her fiance was given the death sentence along with four other men for self mutilation as a way to get out of the army in World War I. She also hears that a one or two of them might have lived. A new determination comes within her to find her lost fiance. The little hope she has keeps her going on her search. The problem with the story is that the author constantly builds up hope but then in the next chapter Mathilde learns that whatever she heard couldn't be right. It always leads you to believe that there is still a chance that he is still alive but then ruins that hope. The only part where something actually happens that really contributes to the plot is when she finds one of the soldiers that survives at the end. Another problem I had was the writing style. It seemed to me that the story was written in another language and then translated because the way that the author wrote it was very confusing. Overall I would not suggest this book to anyone. The story did not have a lot of content that was actually interesting. There was not much suspense because the whole time it seemed quite evident that Manech was dead. Also The end was not very relieving because Manech couldn't remember anything anyways. I just feel like this book didn't really make an impact on me.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    I started this book a long time ago, but couldn't make it past page 8 or 9. It seemed so boring. But several months ago, a friend asked me if it was the same book as the movie, and he said that he had liked the movie. So, I decided to give the movie a try. As luck would have it, our old DVD player kept skipping since the DVD was a bit damaged, so I haven't seen the whole movie yet. But, I was inspired to pick the book up again to figure out what I had missed in the movie. With a bit of perspecti I started this book a long time ago, but couldn't make it past page 8 or 9. It seemed so boring. But several months ago, a friend asked me if it was the same book as the movie, and he said that he had liked the movie. So, I decided to give the movie a try. As luck would have it, our old DVD player kept skipping since the DVD was a bit damaged, so I haven't seen the whole movie yet. But, I was inspired to pick the book up again to figure out what I had missed in the movie. With a bit of perspective from the movie, I was able to get past the dry first section and keep going. It doesn't seem like a book I'm going to love, but at least it looks like I'll finish it this time. :: I finished the book and have to say that I think I liked the movie better (even though I missed much of the second half). In the movie, Mathilde has a pronounced limp from polio and is an orphan, rather than a young woman in a wheelchair from a childhood accident with rich parents who are still living. She was more whimsical in the movie too, saying things like, "If the dog comes into my room before I'm called for supper, Manech is still alive." There was none of that in the book. I actually think the movie filled in a lot of the gaps that made the book less interesting to read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Michael

    I am conflicted about this book. I couldn't put it down and looked forward to being immersed in post WWI France. The characters were interesting and engaging. The story took many twists and turns that were fun to follow and attempt to stay ahead. For me, the problem was the unanswered questions. As I don't want to place any spoilers in my write up, I will simply say this. I am a product of growing up in the United States, where we like our stories (mostly through television) neatly wrapped up in I am conflicted about this book. I couldn't put it down and looked forward to being immersed in post WWI France. The characters were interesting and engaging. The story took many twists and turns that were fun to follow and attempt to stay ahead. For me, the problem was the unanswered questions. As I don't want to place any spoilers in my write up, I will simply say this. I am a product of growing up in the United States, where we like our stories (mostly through television) neatly wrapped up in a 30 minute episode or an hour at most. Oh yes we have the occasional mini-series, but they are becoming a thing of the past, at least good ones are. Let me just say that while the principle mystery of this book is indeed answered, however, there are many unanswered questions. Questions which the author leaves my mind to ponder, as I have grown quite attached to the central figures in this story, Mathilde and Manech. I recommend it, and yes I am probably getting to be a harsher reviewer the more I read. I am going with 3 stars and do encourage anyone that is looking for something a little different in their mystery reading to give this book a try.

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