As we hurried back to the old district of Lyon, I understood that look on Ghislaine’s face. I saw how the occupation had changed us; how the Resistance had brought together people from every level of society and turned us all — from the aristocrat to the simple farmgirl — into counterfeiters, thieves, and murderers.
Wolfsangel is the second novel in Liza Perrat’s L’Auberge des Anges series about women connected through the generations by a bone angel talisman, but it is a standalone novel. The novel opens with 89-year-old Céleste Primrose attending a memorial service commemorating the tragedy that occurred in the French village of Lucie-sur-Vionne on June 8, 1944. Céleste blames herself for the horrors that happened that day at the hands of the Wolfsangel, the Das Reich division of the Waffen-SS, and Perrat takes readers back to 1943, when Céleste Roussel was just 19 years old.
Céleste lives with her mother and younger brother, Patrick, at L’Auberge des Anges (The Inn of Angels), the farm that has been in the family for generations. Despite the German occupation of their village, her brother and his best friend, Olivier, refuse to give up their Resistance activities. Céleste hates the Germans as much as the other villagers and wants in on the action, but her impulsiveness and fiery temper make Patrick and Olivier unsure whether she can handle the work and concerned that she would slip up in her words or actions. So she continues to work on the family farm and tries to steer clear of her cold and bitter mother, who, with her husband in a labor camp, continues her illegal business in order to keep the family fed as the Boche requisition the villagers’ food, animals, and supplies.
When Céleste catches the eye of a German officer, her sister, Félicitié, a nun whose convent is involved in the Resistance, suggests that she use the soldier’s affection to their advantage. It’s not long before Céleste is in over her head, and her feelings for Martin conflict with her Resistance activities and her struggle to save a desperate family rescued from an abandoned hut near the Vionne River as well as her own loved ones. With no end to the war in sight, Céleste must balance her two selves at a time when villagers are being denounced to the authorities and not even the people they’ve known their whole lives can be trusted.
Wolfsangel is fiction but based on a real tragedy that occurred during World War II, and Perrat explains the inspiration for the novel in a much-appreciated author’s note at the end of the book. The novel has so many layers, from Céleste’s complicated relationships with her mother and Martin and the everyday hardships of living amongst the enemy to the fear and excitement of resisting and the horrible, unavoidable consequences of doing so. Perrat made me feel as though I was in Lucie-sur-Vionne, with the tension among the villagers as the Germans take what they want from whomever they want, and the villagers learn that one of their own is feeding the enemy occupiers information about their black market activities. I appreciated that even the fictional aspects of the story were believable, with no clichéd easy escapes or happily ever afters. This is war, after all.
Perrat’s characters are well-developed, and she shows the good and the bad on both sides. Those who performed heroic deeds did so knowing there would be reprisals and that innocent people would die for their actions. The relationship between Céleste and her mother also is well done, from the harsh words and hard feelings to the tenderness that comes from true understanding. Céleste simultaneously being softened by first love and disgusted by her feelings felt true to her character, and her evolution from innocent farm girl to hardened, battle-scarred survivor is beautifully portrayed. That Perrat manages to infuse hope into a story of such unimaginable evil is amazing.
Wolfsangel is a powerful novel about the unthinkable ways war changes people, especially when it’s right on your doorstep. Perrat shows the many ways people can submit or fight back, how they can lose themselves in grief or find hope among the ruins, and how guilt can color every breath they take for the rest of their lives.
Thanks to France Book Tours for having me on the tour for Wolfsangel. To follow the tour, click the banner below.
Seven decades after German troops march into her village, Céleste Roussel is still unable to assuage her guilt.
1943. German soldiers occupy provincial Lucie-sur-Vionne, and as the villagers pursue treacherous schemes to deceive and swindle the enemy, Céleste embarks on her own perilous mission as her passion for a Reich officer flourishes.
When her loved ones are deported to concentration camps, Céleste is drawn into the vortex of this monumental conflict, and the adventure and danger of French Resistance collaboration.
As she confronts the harrowing truths of the Second World War’s darkest years, Céleste is forced to choose: pursue her love for the German officer, or answer General de Gaulle’s call to fight for her country.
Her fate suspended on the fraying thread of her will, Celeste gains strength from the angel talisman bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen.
The decision she makes will shadow the remainder of her days.
A woman’s unforgettable journey to help liberate Occupied France, Wolfsangel is a stirring portrayal of the courage and resilience of the human mind, body and spirit.
About the author:
Liza Perrat grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her husband and three children for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator.
Since completing a creative writing course twelve years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine and France Today.
She has completed four novels and one short-story collection, and is represented by Judith Murdoch of the Judith Murdoch Literary Agency.
Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in an historical series set against a backdrop of rural France. The second in the series – Wolfsangel – will be published in November 2013, and Liza is busy working on the third novel in the series: Midwife Héloïse – Blood Rose Angel.
Disclosure: I received Wolfsangel from the author for review.
© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.