Charlotte Gray by Sebastian Faulks

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RATING: 3/5

BLURB: “In 1942, Charlotte Gray, a young Scottish woman, heads for Occupied France on a dual mission – officially, to run an apparently simple errand for a British special operations group and unofficially, to search for her lover, an English airman missing in action. As the people in the small town of Lavaurette prepare to meet their terrible destiny, the harrowing truth of what took place in ‘the dark years’ is finally revealed”

REVIEW: I am a huge fan of Sebastian Faulks’ most famous novel, ‘Birdsong’, and as ‘Charlotte Gray’ is said to be a sequel of sorts I was greatly looking forward to reading it. I did like the book, and I read it easily enough; yet, I was disappointed. This novel lacked some of the depth and soul that made ‘Birdsong’ such a brilliant and heartbreaking read. Charlotte’s relationship with Peter Gregory, for example, happens so swiftly and contains such a lack of real emotion that it is hard to believe that she would put herself through such risks in Nazi-occupied France in order to reach him. The descriptions of Charlotte’s close brushes with the law in France were also written in such a way that the reader did not really experience the sense of danger that the character would have been feeling. I did find the topic of the book interesting, as I knew little of occupied France and the underground workings of the Vichy and other opposing organisations; the sub-plot involving the abandoned Jewish siblings, Andre and Jacob, was beautifully written and the only section in the book that truly moved me. Otherwise, however, I felt that this novel lacked the emotional substance of ‘Birdsong’, and therefore found myself much less caring of the fates of the characters and their respective endings. I would still recommend the book, however, to those interested in the Second World War and, in particular, the spy networks that existed during this period.

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