Amandine by Marlena deBlasi

I have been a fan of de Blasi since reading her first memoir 1000 days in Venice. I think this is her first venture into fiction (she has also written cookbooks!). Amandine is lovely novel in many ways – the prose is stunning, evocative, brutal, poignant; the characters are innocent, strong, cruel, amazing, normal, heroic, challenging and endearing. The story is amazing, while feeling real, with character development, war atrocities, true friendship, dysfunctional families, and with more than a dollop of hope. The latter I am still not sure about (the ending is a cliff hanger really, perhaps she meant for you to think ah ha, of course, but I am more cynical in this world and it could break my heart). So much of this novel/story is steeped in sadness already.
I think this was an interesting novel because the major characters are all great women (smaller voices with some equally wonderful men) – interesting, great depth, character development, challenges with society, religion, cliques, poverty, war, ….. The more you think about what was packed into the book, the better the book becomes.
It starts off in 1931, Krakow Poland with a princess becoming an unwed mother; she is told her baby dies, but in fact the grandmother sends the child to a convent in Montpelier, expecting the child’s death. How this innocent child precariously survives with an endless bright spirit and enchanting soul makes the life all the more tragic. The portrayal of abandonment and loss are very sincere and touching. And countered with the kindness of strangers and the development of strong bonds. A great summer read.

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