Set against the backdrop of World War II, Farrant’s first for teens (After Iris, 2013, etc.) captures the whirlwind of first love and the complications of taking action during a most dangerous time.
With great anticipation, Arianne and her cousin Solange watch Luc Belleville and his mother arrive back in town after a five-year absence. Rumors as to why they’ve returned abound in their small French town, Samaroux. Arianne and Luc were once childhood friends, but their last meeting ended in a fight. Now reunited, they fall in love, a romance that grows and blossoms during visits to an abandoned house. The novel unfolds like a movie, as readers are privy to the thoughts of other characters: There is Romy, who is hopelessly in love with Arianne; Paul, Arianne’s little brother, who spies for Romy; and Alois, the German soldier who grapples with wartime guilt and perhaps deserves to be the focus of his own novel. By the book’s third act, the plot centers on how Luc’s decision to help the Resistance and its consequences affect the whole town. While the final chapters are heartbreaking, Farrant manages to slip in beauty during a fearsome scene with Paul that offers hope to an unimaginable conclusion: “Sun danced on ash, a pillar of light.”
A worthwhile addition to historical romance that honors one real French town’s tragic and true event. (afterword) (Historical fiction. 12 & up)