Saturday, May 1, 2021

Lana's War

  Lana's War
Author:  Anita Abriel
Publication Information:  Atria Books. 2021. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1982147679 / 978-1982147679

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Lana Hartmann hurried down the Boulevard Saint-Germain to St. Catherine's school, where Frederic taught piano."

Favorite Quote:  "Childhood is about feeling safe and loved, otherwise how will children be able to dream? And without dreams how can the future generation discover planets and cure diseases and create art? The war has to end to the children lead normal lives; otherwise the future of humanity is doomed."

Lana Hartman is the daughter of a Russian countess. She lives in Paris, her family having left Russia for political reasons. It is 1943. The book opens as Lana witnesses her husband's death at the hands of the Gestapo. His crime - trying to protect a Jewish child. In an instant,  Lana's life is destroyed. Her husband. Her baby. Everything she loves.

A new dawn emerges as Lana is offered an opportunity to become part of the war effort and perhaps exact some revenge for her loss. Her aristocratic Russian background is the perfect cover to operate in the Resistance in the French Riviera. Lana finds herself in a beautiful setting where sometimes war seems far away but yet it is always present. She finds herself torn between trying to help those around her and maintaining her cover to make a difference on a larger scale as she obtains valuable information from German officials.

Her partner in the Riviera is of course a handsome, debonaire operative named Guy. In this story of war and loss come a romance as well. Perhaps, it is circumstances that draw them together. Perhaps, it is their common purpose. Perhaps, it is their shared understanding of loss. The romance, to me, adds nothing to the story. The way in which it is carried to the end and the ending itself, I find even less plausible. However, it is expected and predictable for the genre.

Every character in this book - Lana, Guy, Odette, Pierre, Charles, Giselle - has a story of war. People lost. People who disappear. Courage. Fear. Lies. Betrayal. "The war splinters people:  either they can't be trusted, or they're so wrapped up in their own misery they retreat into themselves. It's difficult to really know someone. Some care so little for their own lies, they becomes careless with the lives of others. And for some it's the opposite. They've lost so much already, they're afraid to care for someone new and love them too. Life changes in the blink of any eye. If you're on the wrong side of a rifle, you find yourself dead."

Each one of those stories has great potential for depth and emotion. This book skims the surface, providing more an overview of the different perspectives. It begins with a devastating loss , but at that point, Lana's character is not established and the character of her husband is only introduced through Lana's eyes. The loss is conceptually understood rather than felt. In that same way, the characters are not developed in depth as the book progresses so an opportunity for a much more powerful emotional connection is missed.

On the other hand, this book is an interesting look at the stereotypes that allow Lana to operate as an agent. It is also a view into the French Resistance in the Riviera; much less is written about this than the war in Paris. Once again, I am glad for fiction to point me in the direction of history.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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