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Amandine by Marlena de Blasi


by Marlena de Blasi

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1504679,725 (3.38)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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I love this author,but not this book.Not for me,could not finish it. ( )
  LauGal | Aug 16, 2016 |
The story was a good idea, sadly the book didn't deliver. I kept reading because I thought surely it must get better, but no. Little character development, uninspiring writing, boring for the most part, no heart or soul in it. ( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
In Krakow in 1931, a baby girl is conceived out of wedlock. The child’s grandmother, a countess, believes that she is protecting her daughter when she claims that the baby didn’t survive. In truth, the countess deposits the infant at a remote convent in the French countryside, leaving her with a great sum of money and in the care of a young governess named Solange. Solange names the baby Amandine, and they form a special bond. But even Solange’s love cannot protect Amandine from the disdain of the abbess and the convent girls. Eventually Solange and Amandine set out for Solange’s childhood home in northern France. But what should have been a two-day journey becomes a years-long odyssey across Occupied France.

I found this novel slow to start. DeBlasi gives us considerable emotional background on Amandine’s grandmother (the countess) and the reasoning she uses to convince herself she is doing the right thing, the ONLY thing she can in these circumstances. The narrator changed from chapter to chapter, and internal dialogue was printed in italics, which I found distracting when used for several pages in a row. However, once the characters were well established and Amandine began to show her own personality as a young child I got caught up in her story.

The shame and secrecy of illegitimacy was a heavy burden in this era, and unfortunately, it was frequently laid on the shoulders of the innocent child. Whether it was because they truly believed it in her best interests, or because they feared the money would be cut off, the abbess and bishop conspired to keep any clue as to her origins from Amandine.

War is not pretty and deBlasi does nothing to soften the horrors of the years – deprivation, cold, hunger, fear. Still, despite no encouragement and downright demands that she forget about her unknown family, the child clings to the hope that her mother will somehow find her and they will be reunited. Amandine also exhibits a rare grace and dignity for one so young. How she manages to hold her head high despite all the terrors visited up on her in the convent and on the run is beyond me. To say that she is treated cruelly is an understatement; one scene in particular is very distressing. And she has an amazing capacity to forgive. She seems to intuit the motives, fears, and dreams of the adults around her and accept their actions as necessary, forgiving them for not being able to see another way.

About half-way through the book I had an inkling of how it might end. I was close. But deBlasi’s ending is both abrupt and inconclusive. This is the author’s only novel; her other works are nonfiction. I wonder if she is working on a sequel to this book.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
  JosieRivers | Dec 28, 2014 |
sweet story, historical
  asyouth | Apr 19, 2011 |
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To Paula and Stuart Herman
with love for then, now and always

For Giuseppina Sugaroni Pettinelli
authentic heroine, my one and only
First words
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.
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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:10:53 -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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