After every war there are stories that are locked away like bluebottles in drawers and kept silent. But sometimes the past can return: in the smell of carbolic soap, in whispers darting though a village after mass, in the colour of an undelivered letter.
Jeanne Nerin and Marie-Angèle Baudry grow up, side by side yet apart, in the village of Ste Madeleine. Marie-Angèle is the daughter of the grocer, inflated with ideas of her piety and rightful place in society. Jeanne’s mother washes clothes for a living. She used to be Jew until this became too dangerous. Jeanne does not think twice about grasping the slender chances life throws at her. Marie-Angèle does not grasp; she aspires to a future of comfort and influence.
When war falls out of the sky, along with it tumbles a new, grown-up world. The village must think on its feet, play its part in a game for which no one knows the rules. In these uncertain times, the enemy may be hiding in your garden shed and the truth is all too easily buried under a pyramid of recriminations.
Michèle Roberts is the author of twelve highly acclaimed novels, including The Looking Glass and Daughters of the House, which won the WHSmith Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her memoir Paper Houses was a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week. She has also published poetry and short stories, most recently collected in Mud: Stories of Sex and Love. Half-English and half-French, Michèle Roberts lives in London. She is Emeritus Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature, and a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres.