Madeleine Bunting has written a book that works on different levels. It’s a story about how a young girl managed in the second world war in occupied Guernsey, a love story and a tale about the search of a daughter for her family history.
She has previously written a book about the occupation (The Model Occupation) so has done her research and I’m sure that many of the details were rooted in reality – and these don’t make for easy reading. She also managed to create a very real Guernsey for me, bringing town, country – and modern bungalow-land – vividly to life.
In 1940, a young Helene Lacheur is living at home in rural Guernsey with her father and her nanna. Her new husband has just gone off to war and the Germans have just invaded the island. Over the next few years, we see get a glimpse of how difficult Helene’s forced interaction with the enemy is and how living in a small, closed community paid havoc with relationships.
Skip forward forty years and Helene has recently died. Her daughter Roz is faced with revelations about her family’s past and decides to do some research into her background, discovering a hidden side to her mother. Her travels bring her to Guernsey, naturally, but also to Berlin and to modern day Russia.
Using the dual timeframe narrative device, Madeleine Bunting tells the story in a deceptively simple way which made me want to know how it ends. And whilst the story is well worth reading throughout, keep reading for the twist at the end.
With thanks to Netgalley for an advance copy. Island Song was published on 4 April