Tuesday, December 27, 2022

The Storyteller of Casablanca

The Storyteller of Casablanca
  The Storyteller of Casablanca
Author:  Fiona Valpy
Publication Information:  Lake Union Publishing. 2021. 315 pages.
ISBN:  1542032105 / 978-1542032100

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

Opening Sentence:  "May McConnaghy perches on the overstuffed chaise in the drawing room and fans herself gently with the little booklet she's brought with her."

Favorite Quote:  "One of the things I learned from the dream seller was that we all need to be able to speak our own truth, to have it heard. Sometimes we can feel there's  no one listening and then we must find other ways to make ourselves heard."

Like The Skylark's Secret by Fiona Valpy, this book tells two stories in two timelines, and one is a story of World War II. The story of the 1940s is that of Josie, a young girl who flees Europe with her family to arrive in Morocco to await passage to the United States. The other story is about seventy years later and of Zoe who comes to Morocco as an expat with secrets and sorrows of her own.

The connection between the two is Josie's diary that Zoe discovers decades laters under the floorboards on the house in which she lives. The diary provides first a distraction from Zoe's own sorrows. It is an escape from Zoe's own reality. Then, as Zoe learns more and more of Josie, it provides healing and hope.

Josie's story is that of a refugee. "Can we really imagine how it must feel to be so afraid of what lies behind you that you are prepared to throw yourself headlong into an unknown that is going to be filled with danger and loneliness? Leaving behind your family and your culture and seeking something better in a land where you are not welcome and you are not understood?"

As with most books using this approach, one story can be more powerful than the other. In this case, it is Josie's story. The telling of the story sometimes gives Josie a voice that does not sound her age, but perhaps that is the things she survived and perhaps it is the tool of a storyteller and dramatic license. For most of the book, Zoe's story is less compelling for the reader has yet to discover what lies at the heart of her sorrow. Josie's story comes with the power of a known history; Zoe's does not.

Along with the stories, the viewpoint on Morocco in two time periods is an interesting one, particularly the role the nation played during World War II - yet another aspect of the war to be explored. It is not as aspect I know much about, and it is not a country I have visited. So, the presentation over time of a place was a fascinating part of the this book.

My biggest stumbling block in this book is that Josie's and Zoe's are only tangentially connected through the diary. In other two time period books, the characters and the stories often link together bringing past and present together for a much stronger impact. There is often a relationship or a tracing of lineage from one time to another, and the story of the past creates a much more direct impact on the present. In this book, the two do come together but the emotion of it is not there for there is no true connection between the characters.

Overall, the history is interesting, and the location is fascinating. However, the emotion of the book is not what I expected.

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

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