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Amandine by Marlena de Blasi
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Amandine

by Marlena de Blasi

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1304392,561 (3.35)23
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    Frost in May by Antonia White (lahochstetler)
    lahochstetler: Books about young girls growing up in convents
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    The Land of Spices by Kate O'Brien (lahochstetler)
    lahochstetler: Books about young girls growing up in convents
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This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
I received this as an early reader and didn't get very far. I have nothing bad to say just that it did not interest me in the least bit. Not my style.
  bellamia | Jul 2, 2012 |
sweet story, historical
  asyouth | Apr 19, 2011 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
This is a beautifully written book about a little girl who is an outcast from her family in WWII. She is sent away to live in a French convent though eventually flees with her guardian, Solange to make their way to Solange's childhood home.
The beginning was a little slow with some lag in the middle. But it was more about character development than plot. It took me awhile to finish and I'm not sure I would recommend it, but I enjoyed parts and loved Amadine as well as Solange. ( )
  bookmagic | Nov 28, 2010 |
I really liked this book. I did not like the ending! I have a ARC prior to release here in Australia, and I have been skimming through the reviews here to convince myself that there wasn't an extra chapter missing from my copy! I felt so left up in the air, that I knocked half a star off my rating and considered knocking it back to 3.5 too. The storyline itself was wonderful, it plays out like a movie, and the short scenes and chapters kept me reading on for "just one more bit" a lot more than I should have. I loved the mirroring of the intersection of peoples lives with the train stations, and the movements of the Resistance, and the unpredictability of where people found themselves in wartime Europe. I really hope there will be a sequel. ( )
  nellista | Sep 14, 2010 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Identity comes from the people who love you is the message of Marlena de Blasi’s novel, Amandine. She tells the story of a young orphan born in Poland just before WWII and spirited away to a convent in southern France to be raised by a former postulant. Amandine longs for her real mother but loves her surrogate mother, Solange, and the sisters in the convent. Ultimately the war breaks into their cloistered world and Amandine and Solange flee to Solange’s family in northern France. Their tortuous journey across wartorn France leads them into the path of the Resistance and unexpected tragedies. In a parallel story, Amandine’s birth mother, a member of the nobility, learns that the child she thought dead survived but she doesn’t know how or where. The dramatic tension centers on whether the two will find each other or will the war separate them forever.

While an interesting story Amandine is ultimately unsuccessful. De Blasi spends most of the book creating a lyrical world in the convent and Amandine’s place in it. She excels in painting the landscape of southern France and the dynamics of the personalities in the convent. But the two main story lines, the convent and the WWII journey across France, somehow don’t quite connect. While reading the first part of the book, I was impatient to get to the war story which seemed to promise more in the way of drama. And yet the war part of the book, while more gripping, seemed more rushed and ultimately leads to an unsatisfying ending. The parallel story of Amandine’s birth mother was even less well-drawn involving characters it was hard to sympathize with. Amandine seemed better off where she was than with her actual birth family. ( )
  mdexter | Aug 10, 2010 |
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Paula and Stuart Herman
with love for then, now and always

For Giuseppina Sugaroni Pettinelli
authentic heroine, my one and only
First words
Prologue:
On an evening in the autumn of 1916 on one of the estates of the noble Czartoryski family situated in the environs of Krakow, Count Antoni Czartoryski murdered the young baroness who was his lover.
Chapter one:
Old plane trees reach limb to limb over the wide avenue and, under the parasols of yellow September leaves, a wide black Packard glides.
Quotations
How I long to hold Amandine in my arms. Surely I think of her as yours. And so I admit that part of my longing for her is so that I may have another chance to be your mother. Can you understand that, Solange? … Do you long for another chance to be my daughter?
Over these months, he has learned to listen more to her eyes than her words.
… since I’ve known that my baby might still be alive, I have begun to invent nostalgia for her. That sort of Russian nostalgia which one feels for a person even without having known him. … I have pictured her, imagined her in ten thousand ways. I almost fear going out into the world because I know that I shall ‘see’ her everywhere, in every little girl’s face. I shall stop children in the street, look into their eyes, run after any one of them who seems the least bit familiar to me. I will spend the rest of my life waiting for that thud of recognition which, more than likely, will not be recognition at all but the longing for it.
The women whom Magdalen said we’d find were always there. Sometimes in groups, sometimes alone with their children, they barely broke stride to greet us, feed us, bed us down. We’d stay for a day, sometimes for a month. … they plotted shelters, organized their stores, made pallets where other people’s children could sleep. They worked the fields, stirred the soup, suckled their babies, oiled their guns, nursed the wounded…
And on that day in May 1945 … Trains came from Paris and from other parts of the country more often, and men who’d been boys five years ago stepped down into the arms of women who’d been girls. And with as much of their hearts as they could put back together, they celebrated. … like the others in the village, like the others all over Europe, they set about to cure the misery and begin the rescue that each one must do for himself.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0345507347, Hardcover)

Marlena de Blasi on Amandine

Childhood, beginning with that swim down the straits of the birth canal, is made of at least as much despair as joy. And, as we know, things don’t change all that much over time. Bittersweet is as fine a flavor as life can have at any age. And so are we, all of us, victims? Though arguably entitled to it, Amandine never claims that status. A Candide-esque character tinged with shades of St. Theresa the Little Flower and Forrest Gump, she’s fresh and unpredictable and of an ineffable courage.

Cast from fragments of the lives and times of people I have known, people I know--not the least of which is me, myself--Amandine is a composite. One--perhaps the single--motive for this leap from narrative non-fiction to wander the greater mine-scattered, tall-grassed fields of fiction was the hope that Amandine would resonate a scene or two from a reader’s own early despair, perplexity. Sufferance. That there would grow up from Amandine’s story some other small if wavering light by which the reader might look at these. A presumptuous notion in this literary and societal moment when tales--perceived, invented or real--of hideous childhoods and their lingering detritus are the stuff of readers’ choice. Crisp, dry wood to rouse a victim’s fire. But, as I’ve said, Amandine declines the shorn lamb category. Rather she consents. Not as passive a strategy as one might imagine for, in the quiet space of that consent, she examines, reasons, heals. Is she wise beyond her years? I don’t think so. (Virgin and unfettered, the instinctive capacity for wisdom is greatest in a child. Older and wiser rings true if only rarely. Life itself seems to erode early wisdom, redressing it as cynicism and diffidence. Sometimes we remain wise but I don’t think we can aspire to wisdom.) But let me introduce Amandine to you via an excerpt from a letter which she wrote when she was eight years old to her mother, the mother whose name she didn’t know, whom she’d never seen or heard, whose whereabouts were a mystery. The mother who believed her baby had died.

Chère Maman,

You don’t know me. I mean we haven’t met. Actually we did meet but it was when I was very little and I think you were very little, too. I just thought that you might be missing me, wanting to know about me. I didn’t want you to worry and so I thought I would write to you to tell you that I’m fine. I’m well. My name is Amandine. I’m your daughter.

I’m almost eight and I have dark hair, curly and long and mostly all the time woven into plaits by sister Genévieve. Solange used to make my plaits when I was little but now that I live in the dormitory, sister Genévieve does. Solange is like a big sister and an aunt and a teacher but mostly she is my best friend. After you and Jesus, I love Solange best. And Phillipe, too. I shall tell you of Phillipe when I see you. His grandmother had blue hair.

I can never quite tell the color of my eyes which seems to change. It’s something like gray but very dark and almost blue like the sky looks at night. But not exactly. Solange says they’re the color of the inside of an iris, the color deep inside. But not exactly that, either. I’m not big and I’m not small for eight. Well maybe I am a bit small.

I can read with the sixth elementary students and know my multiplication tables and I love to write stories and read about princesses and saints but mostly about princesses. I love to listen to Solange when she tells me stories. She says they’re the same stories that her mother told her. She has a mother, too. And a father and a grandmother and sisters. I think she has 18 cousins. Do you have cousins? I mean if you have cousins, then they are my cousins, too. Would you tell me someday about my cousins? I imagine that their names are Susie and Jeannette and Christine and Diane. I don’t know too many boys' names so I only think about girl cousins. Do I have a grandmother? I hope she’s well, not growing too old before I can get to her to tell her how much I love her. Tell her please that I say prayers for her and that I will come to help her when she’s old. Tell her not to worry because as soon as I find her, I won’t leave ever leave her again. Actually I don’t know why I went away. I can’t remember. Can you remember, maman?....

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:31:57 -0400)

Krakow, 1931. A baby girl is born out of wedlock, and deposited at a remote convent in the French countryside. Amandine is raised by her governess, Solange. As global war looms, the two flee toward Solange's childhood home, and begin a perilous, years-long odyssey across Occupied France-- and deeper into the treacheries of war.… (more)

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