Review: The French Promise by Fiona McIntosh


Title: The French Promise

Author: Fiona McIntosh

Published: Michael Joseph: Penguin Australia March 2013

Read an Extract

Status: Read from March 24 to 26, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy Penguin/Netgalley}

My Thoughts:

The Lavender Keeper, set primarily in France during World War 2, introduced Luc Bonet, a lavender farmer who joined the Resistance after his family was dragged away by Nazi collaborators and their farm in Provence was seized, and Lisette Forestier who was recruited by the London Home Office, tasked to infiltrate the Reich and aid the downfall of the Nazi regime.
The French Promise continues their story as they rebuild their lives after the war has ended. Luc, haunted by all he has lost, is struggling with his new life in England. Though he loves Lisette, and their son, Harry, he is unable to lay the ghosts of his past to rest. Lisette, increasingly concerned about her husband, believes they need a fresh start and the family sets sail for Tasmania where Luc can return to Lavender farming. Luc’s grief recedes as they establishes themselves in Australia, adding a daughter, Jennifer, to their family but when tragedy strikes Luc is overwhelmed by despair until a letter from the son of a war time friend provides him with the opportunity to finally fulfill his sworn promise to avenge those he loved.

I had been looking forward to this sequel after having enjoyed the blend of action, adventure, romance and intrigue in The Lavender Keeper. While Lisette is the dominant character in first novel, The French Promise features Luc and is a quieter story that focuses on emotion and human drama in the aftermath of the war. I love how the author connects the characters and events of The Lavender Keeper with The French Promise, and for that reason wouldn’t recommend this as a stand alone novel. I feel the experience would be lacking without knowledge of the history of Luc and Lisette’s history.

The novel begins by sharing the fate of Luc’s family at Auschwitz-Birkenau where Rachel and Sarah are the only family members to survive the initial purge on arrival. While Sarah labours in a German factory, Rachel’s musical talents provide her with some advantages when she is chosen to teach music to the camp supervisor’s children. Unfortunately it is there that she comes under the notice of Commander Herr von Schleigel, an enemy of Luc’s, who takes perverse pleasure in condemning Rachel and her sister to death. McIntosh deals with the subject of the Holocaust sensitively but it is it’s aftermath and it’s impact on the survivors that is featured in the novel.

Not knowing exactly what happened to his family after they were taken by the Nazi’s has been a festering source of grief for Luc. Though he was certain they died in a German death camp it’s not until he is contacted by Max Vogel seeking information about his own father, Colonel Killian, with whom Luc and Lisette share history, that Luc is able to mourn his family. Through Luc, McIntosh explores the ethics of vengeance and it’s cost, as he decides to confront Commander Herr von Schleigel for his wartime atrocities. I found it interesting that though my sympathy was wholly with Luc, and my hatred for the Nazi officer complete, I hoped Luc would surrender his drive for revenge in favour of moving on with his life and finding the happiness he deserved. The characters of The French Promise are so finely and realistically drawn that I became invested in their well being and cried and laughed along with them.

The French Promise is a captivating saga of love, loss, and the triumph of the human spirit, providing closure for Luc and Lisette’s story. Fiona McIntosh is an extraordinary storyteller (I can also recommend her DCI Jack Hawksworth crime series and her fantasy stand alone, The Scrivener’s Tale) and this historical fiction duology is a stunning example of her talent.

Available to Purchase

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via Booko



3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. carolyndonaghey
    Mar 30, 2013 @ 17:28:59

    Sounds great! I’m looking forward to reading it as a Fiona McIntosh fan.



  2. Teddyree
    Apr 01, 2013 @ 14:35:00

    Wonderful review, adding both to my wishlist 🙂



  3. Trackback: Review: The Perfumer’s Secret by Fiona McIntosh | book'd out

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