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Dual time line novel set in the DORDOGNE

14th January 2022

The School Teacher of Saint-Michel by Sarah Steele, dual time line novel set in the Dordogne.

Dual time line novel set in the DORDOGNE

This is the latest novel from the author of The Missing Pieces of Nancy Moon, which took the reader on a delightfully picaresque meander through Europe. This time the author focusses on the Dordogne, inspired by the setting – as she says at the end – when she was sitting in a friend’s garden, surrounded by the local and beautiful cherry trees. The seed of an idea was sown.

In present day Berkshire, Hannah has gone through a tremendous period of loss, and her head teacher suggests she take a little time off from school. She is in possession of a letter from her French Grandmother Gigi, which, although considerable time has passed since it was written, exhorts her to go and find Lucie in Saint-Michel and to apologise on her behalf. For what, she has no idea. Now she has the perfect opportunity to drive down to the Dordogne and see if she can pull together the pieces of this tantalising jigsaw. A period away would also be a balm to her broken soul.

She finds her accommodation at Les Cerisiers and begins to trawl back in time. Through Hannah’s researches, the period of 1942 becomes accessible to the reader, (a point in time when the village was divided on the bridge between occupied France and free France). She finds listed recipes, many of which featured cherries – cerises – which, she discovers were not only a tasty addition but also had a very specific meaning. She discovers more about the locals and their motivations and the individual parts they played in the war. The author paints a picture in bold colours and contours, and conjures up the hardships and mistrust that were rife at the time. The village was not left unscathed, as Nazi soldiers were billeted amongst the inhabitants. The final clues take her to Paris.

This is an engaging read that is very atmospheric of time and place.

If you like this novel then you may also like Carol Drinkwater’s “An Act of Love” set in the Alps-Maritimes during WW2 (and our Book of the Month, June 2021)

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