This is two stories within one. The two stories center around an old French castle, which holds within its walls the memories of a Nazi birthing center. The modern-day characters are fresh and intriguing, though the male, Mr. Becker, is a rather gruff and unlikeable character at first. Gradually I learned to feel concern for him, putting myself in his shoes. Jade, the female main character, is a bit blunt, but caring. Becker's job is to restore the old castle, and he specifically focuses on carving the wooden bannisters. His old hurts haunt him and instill fear and anger in him, and he tries to still the raging longing for alcoholic drink. Jade's job is to be a nanny to the boss's twins, who are average, cute children. She also cooks and cleans in the castle, the children in tow. Gradually Becker has feelings for Jade, but they are conflicted, and the romance is limited. The Christian message is limited, as well, but does come about slowly, if not entirely clearly. There are various pieces that come together in a climax, from an old man called Jojo, night wanderings, sickness, and the history of the old chateau. A good read for those who enjoy learning about personal struggles and history, with a little mystery thrown in.
Summary: A historical refurbisher who struggles with alcoholism finds himself in France working to repair the damage done to a centuries old castle. After finding himself grossly beyond his comfort zone, his life changes after interacting with the other people working on restoring the castle to it's former glory.
I'm going to mention the heavy symbolism between restoring the castle and restoring the main character's life here, right down to the point where the two have major setbacks simultaneously, and move on.
The book flashes back and forth between the 1940's and the present. During WW2, the castle was a lebensborn where women carrying the children of Nazi soldiers went to give birth to future citizens of the Third Reich. It was these portions of the story I found most intriguing. One almost gets the feel that perhaps this is the novel the author wanted to write, but instead found herself fleshing out the plot with the modern day.
Part of the story is mystery/suspense. We wonder who people's real identities are, who is defacing the hard work to restore the structure. The main character goes through a slow and painful growth, trying over and over again to reach out and failing. His love interest is alternately helpful and antagonistic, bewildering until her backstory is explained.
Once everyone's full history is made clear and all the secrets are revealed, it would have been nice if there had been a little more resolution and communication between the characters. The book finishes with something of a european ending, not a happy ending. The problems are resolved, but we are left emotionally hanging.
If you love architectural fiction, WW2 fiction, fiction set in france, or books which end like they may be waiting for a sequel, then this book is right up your alley.
This book is a fantastic historical version reminiscent of the idea "if walls could talk". There have been many times I have been in older homes and I wished they could tell their story!
I love the way it is written, alternating between the present day and the historical time period. In modern day time, Becker, a very troubled, angry, alcoholic is more or less tricked by his business partner into going to France and renovating an ancient castle. The owner is a jovial and very wealthy man, Mr. Fallon. His deadline for the main part of the castle is for a party for his pregnant wife's 40th birthday. The renovation is extensive and the date set seems almost impossible.
Becker has become bitter and withdrawn throughout the years and is stretched to the limit with the jobs demands, a very nervous French designer he is forced to work with, and Fallon's nanny and two children who spend each day there.
The historical time is in the 1940's during WW2 and Hitler's occupation in France at this very castle. Two young girls, Marie and Elise, are hired as housemaids by Heinrich Himmler who used the castle to house the Lebensborn Program. Both Himmler and program actually existed during WW2. I had read about and seen documentaries about this program. It was part of Hitler's plans for a "perfect race". Young unmarried women became pregnant by German soldiers. They were cared for and pampered by the Third Reich until they delivered their babies. After delivery, they left and their babies stayed to be eventually adopted out to German couples and be raised as Nazi's. Falling in love with a German stableman, Elise is influenced by the propaganda and becomes pregnant by him. After she becomes a resident in the chateau, she begins to realize what she has done and that she will lose her baby. The girl's lives and the discoveries Becker makes during the renovation being to interconnect.
There are many surprises, twists, and turns in the story. I was never bored, always wanting to read further. I found several spiritual lessons within the story about loyalty, facing our problems with faith, forgiveness, and caring in the face of rejection. This was a great book! It was my first book to read by Ms. Phoenix and I look forward to more. I received this book free from Handlebar Publishing in exchange for my honest review. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255