It’s a while since I read a book in gulps, not wanting to put it down, not wanting to leave the story. Daughters of War by Dinah Jefferies is the first of a World War Two trilogy about three sisters. And what characters they are, each individual, quirky, vulnerable, stubborn, brave and refreshing. I lurched from having one favourite, then another. At the end I was equally drawn to each. In the Dordogne live three sisters – Hélène, Élise and Florence – alone in their mother’s house during the German occupation. Hélène is the eldest, a nurse, the mother hen, the worrier. Élise is the rebel, helping the Resistance, disappearing at night. Florence, the youngest, is a gardener, a cook, a nature lover. They are tired of the war, terrified by the Germans and their increasingly violent and indiscriminate reprisals, desperate for a normal life without remembering what that might be.
Backstory is important and there are many mysteries, unspoken memories and fears, which can only by explained when something happens to trigger understanding. We see the girls’ mother Claudette, in England for the war, only through their memories but she is a pivotal character nonetheless.
The story opens in spring 1944 when the girls’ quiet life at their stone cottage in the woods is altered by two arrivals. Jack, a British Special Operations soldier, has parachuted in with orders to train the Resistance in preparation for the invasion. Tomas, a young German soldier, has deserted and is found hiding in their garden shed. What follows is a tale of innocence, love, bravery, cruelty, loyalty and honour.
Jefferies’ descriptions of the French countryside – the trees, the birds, the wildflowers, the Dordogne scenery, coupled with the descriptions of Florence’s cooking – work as a shocking juxtaposition to the horror of war in this oh so beautiful tranquil place.
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DAUGHTERS OF WAR by @DinahJefferies #bookreview https://wp.me/p5gEM4-5vI via @SandraDanby