British Conservative Party politician Widdecombe’s unconvincing second offers would-be profound observations on war, peace, and love.
Narrator Catherine Dessin begins in 1961 in Berlin, as the Wall goes up. Then the story moves to Paris, June 1940. Catherine is 15 and still in convent school, while her large family lives in a house with a small garden—useful later for growing vegetables during the shortages. Catherine’s grandparents have an apartment on the top floor, and her father teaches English at the Sorbonne. Meanwhile, the German army has just taken over, and all are apprehensive. Unlike her sisters, Catherine is not a good student but dreams instead of falling in love, and when she and her girlfriends have a party one night and are still out after the curfew, they’re taken to army headquarters and questioned by a good-looking senior officer called Klaus von Strobel, then released with a warning. But Catherine doesn’t forget Klaus, whom she sees again by accident, then begins meeting regularly at a café. Her family is horrified: He’s not only a German, but much older and married with three children. Even Catherine has a few qualms as the Germans begin rounding up Jewish families, including a classmate from school, but she is remarkably obtuse and self-centered. Though Klaus does some good deeds—saving various lives, including those of her parents, who are involved with the Resistance—Catherine is not overly guilt-ridden. Her family shuns her, as do her co-workers, but she blames the war for it all—except for it, her family would surely approve of Klaus, who was a professor in peacetime. As the Allies advance, Klaus persuades Catherine to go to the country, where she won’t be punished a collaborator. There, she discovers she’s pregnant, which makes life look less bleak.
More queasy-making than heart-rending: Catherine is worse than just a fool for love.