New York, 2015. Eighty-year-old Elise Duval receives a call from a woman bearing messages from a time and country that she has forced herself to forget. A French Catholic who arrived in New York after World War II, Elise is shocked to discover that the letters are from her mother, written in German during the war. Despite Elise’s best efforts to stave off her past, seven decades of secrets begin to unravel.
The book’s scope is ambitious, but its emotional core is palpable and affecting. At times, the characters’ spoken passages don’t quite ring true as authentic dialogue, but this could be due in part to the translation from the original Spanish. Nevertheless, the emotions underpinning their speeches seem genuine, and the love at the heart of this war-torn family will inspire readers’ compassion as well.
Impossible choices faced by loving parents lie at the heart of this underwhelming tale by Correa ... While Correa convincingly evokes the perils of occupied France, his characters rarely move beyond being one-dimensional, and the hasty conclusion about how the war ended for Viera and Lina is unsatisfying. Readers interested in WWII fiction have plenty of better options elsewhere.
Though grim, [the first] part of the narrative is gripping and stirring. The second part is also eventful, but it meanders and lacks focus. Plus, the young Lina...unlike her mother, is not a strong enough character to anchor the action. There is vivid writing, especially in the first part, and some memorable images ... Though it's sometimes involving and insightful, Correa's novel is ultimately too diffuse to have the intended impact.