Category: Contemporary, Historical, Romance, Crime, Book Review
Treachery and theft lead to death – and love
1940. Teresa Bichard and her baby are sent by her beloved husband, Leo, to England as the Germans draw closer to Guernsey. Days later they invade…
1942. Leo, of Jewish descent, is betrayed to the Germans and is sent to a concentration camp, never to return.
1945. Teresa returns to find Leo did not survive and the family’s valuable art collection, including a Renoir, is missing. Heartbroken, she returns to England.
A story set in two different time periods, beginning in 1940s Guernsey when Teresa Bichard has been persuaded to leave Guernsey with her baby daughter, due to the expected invasion by the German army. Her husband Leo, is staying to look after the business and valuable items belonging to the family.
In present day Guernsey, twins Fiona and Nigel are the proud new owners of a well established antique shop. They found a hidden trapdoor during the refurbishment which lead to an underground storage room, housing wrapped items which turned out to be paintings of various sizes. One particular painting, showing Moulin Huet Bay, gave them pause for thought. Could it be an unknown, yet signed, Renoir? Fiona is an art historian and takes the painting to London for authentication but, on her way back with the good news, was unable to contact Nigel. Fiona was unaware of Nigel’s plight and was utterly overwhelmed once she discovered what had happened in their shop.
Something was wrong. The alarm didn’t blast out as he pushed open the back door of the shop. Standing still, he heard a noise. Someone was in the shop. Or more accurately, the basement. Nigel paused as he closed the door quietly behind him, his heart hammering against his ribs as he debated what to do. Whoever was in there knew how to disable a burglar alarm otherwise lights would be flashing and a discordant wail would be piercing the air. Best to shut them in the basement and call the police.
This is a story set in dual time involving several threads, with historical links relating to a contemporary story and including a touch of the supernatural. The story is well crafted, the two time lines connecting seamlessly, with chapters from 1940s Guernsey interspersed between the present day story. I like that characters from previous novels are brought in to the narrative, giving the whole a rounded and continuous feel. And, not least of all, the beautiful descriptions of the island invoke vivid images.
Leo Bichard’s story was particularly poignant as it mirrors true events. People were given up, for differing reasons, to the occupying force to make their lives that bit easier. It’s entirely conceivable some people took the opportunity to use it as way to exact revenge for perceived slights. The islanders’ fear, their sense of isolation after the demilitarisation and the evacuations, are all conveyed in a heartbreakingly realistic way. It’s hard to reconcile the events during the war with the peaceful, idyllic place it is today and the contrast is depicted skilfully. The other underlying truth to the story is that Renoir did spend a summer on the island in the 1880s, painting different aspects of, amongst others, Moulin Huet Bay.
A very enjoyable read and a great addition to the Guernsey Novels.
I chose to read and review The Betrayal for Rosie Amber‘s Book Review Team, based on a digital copy of the book supplied by the author/publisher.
Anne Allen lives in Devon, by her beloved sea. She has three children and her daughter and two grandchildren live nearby. She was born in Rugby, to an English mother and Welsh father. As a result she spent many summers with her Welsh grandparents in Anglesey and learnt to love the sea. Her restless spirit has meant a number of moves which included Spain for a couple of years. The longest stay was in Guernsey for nearly fourteen years after falling in love with the island and the people. She contrived to leave one son behind to ensure a valid reason for frequent returns. By profession Anne was a psychotherapist but has long had creative ‘itches’, learning to mosaic, paint furniture, interior design and sculpt. At the back of her mind the itch to write was always present but seemed too time-consuming for a single mum with a need to earn a living. Now retired from the ‘day job’, there’s more time to write and Anne has now published six books in The Guernsey Novels series.