REVIEWED BY LINDA HILL
The French House is a triumph. It’s resonant with what ifs and if onlys, so that there’s a sadness I found emotional from the very beginning and I was an emotional wreck by the time I reached the end
Between the pages of The French House you’ll find both brutality and tenderness, but above all else, there’s wonderful story telling. The story creeps up on the reader, increasing in pace, drama and excitement until waiting to discover how events will be resolved is almost unbearable. I absolutely loved this level of tension, because it’s made up of layers of personal and international history that bring home events hugely effectively.
The Guernsey wartime setting is deftly handled so that it provides a convincing, authentic backdrop to the story, but doesn’t sidetrack or over dominate. Jacquie Bloese provides a clear insight into life in Guernsey during German occupation, but does so in a way that is entirely natural so that she educates and entertains perfectly.
The different layers of cruelty and kindness presented here illustrate humanity so well
Through fabulous storytelling we come to understand that even the most well meant actions have consequences so that The French House left me wondering what I might have done in Émile, or Maud, or Isabelle’s place.
Jacquie Bloese considers those who make up our societies and don’t fit the accepted norms in such a mature and sensitive way that The French House has a timeless feel to it. Émile’s deafness, Peter’s sexuality, Maud’s place in the family all illustrate humanity at its most diverse and captivating.
Émile is superb. He’s flawed and angry, rash and a drunkard. He’s also loyal, passionate, kind and gentle – a real maelstrom of contradictions. Émile embodies the capricious vagaries of life just wonderfully.
Ron is also brilliantly depicted. I loathed him with a passion until even his very name filled me with contempt.
What Jacquie Bloese does so well is to create disappointed, care worn, unlikeable characters like Letty and make the reader understand them, warm to them and care about them. It is through these people that The French House illustrates the capacity of the human spirit to endure and to survive even the most testing of times.
The French House is a beautifully wrought exploration of love of all kinds. It’s utterly gorgeous, convincingly written and completely captivating. Make sure you read it.
Out now, The French House by Jacquie Bloese (Hodder & Stoughton, HB £20) is available from Amazon.
Jacquie Bloese has written an exclusive short story for us which appears in our May 28 issue (on sale May 24 2022) – pick up a copy and enjoy more wonderful writting from this talented author.