4 out of 4 stars
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In 1933, Mark, a young Jewish man completing his studies, is ordered by his parents to leave Berlin at once and relocate to Paris. Upon relaying the news to him, they appear sullen and disheartened, a stark contrast to what Mark is feeling—overjoyed! He happily picks up his life and heads to Paris to live the life he has always dreamed of. By the time he discovers his ignorance, it is too late, stuck in Germany, his parents' fate is sealed, and soon France will be in peril, as well.
Mark quickly becomes immersed in his new life with the La Fontaines; The General has welcomed him to his opulent abode with open arms, and his young wife VieVie has awoken a burgeoning lust within Mark that he has never experienced before. It seemed he had escaped the realities of Hitler's tyranny, but not for long.
In 1939, the German soldiers began filtering into Paris; General La Fontaine informs Mark that he will battle on the frontlines. Mark must stay back and protect himself and the woman he has fallen deeply in love with—VieVie. "I leave all I love in your hands," General La Fontaine tells Mark. The pair have no idea the danger that awaits as the German soldiers close in on them.
VieVie La Fontaine by Linda Heavner Gerald is a story comprised of two heavy-hitting components: love and war. Readers are transported into Mark's life, quickly immersing themselves in the plight of a young man that is starving for love and struggling to find his place in a world that views his very existence as expendable. The book is written from the first-person perspective and is an emotionally-charged book ripe with detailed imagery. The author's knack for developing multi-layered characters ignited my imagination. It continued to burn brightly through the duration of my reading experience.
I felt deeply connected to Mark's character as he tried to make sense of the new reality thrust upon him. While the prospect of living in Paris excited him, the gravity of his parents' plight was concealed by his ignorance. When he realized the bigger picture—the persecution his parents were forced to endure back in Germany—guilt consumed him. The feelings of shame continued to follow him throughout the novel. He was haunted by horrible dreams of his Jewish people suffering at the mercy of German soldiers as they invaded the streets of Paris. This guilt ultimately consumed him and led to his decision to become a French Resistance Fighter.
Another aspect of the book that stood out to me was the volatile relationship between VieVie and Mark. As a young man who had never experienced a physical or emotional connection with a woman before, once Mark had made that connection, he put VieVie on a pedestal. First love is often the hardest to understand; the flood of feelings—immense love, and the great sadness of being betrayed by your lover. VieVie was a seductress, a woman known for taking on many lovers, and was married to General La Fontaine. When she did the unthinkable by parading other lovers around Mark, it destroyed him and made a trying time even more unbearable.
Finally, the misery of being a person in exile was an important theme in the book. The author did a fantastic job of relaying the horrors of World War II and pulling me into that period. The disgusting ways that the Jewish people were treated and the taking over of Paris until individuals had lost all sense of identity was excruciating to experience. The once loved streets of Paris were unrecognizable as German soldiers flooded the area, ripping the Parisians' homes from underneath them. "Signs in German now stood on the main boulevards, and the clocks of Paris registered Berlin time."
VieVie La Fontaine was professionally edited with no exhaustive errors in spelling or grammar. I wholeheartedly chose to give the book a rating of four out of four stars.
While the book has several instances of inferring sexuality, the scenes are scant and over quickly. The profanity is kept to a minimum, which makes me inclined to recommend the book to all ages. As someone who isn't well-versed in history, particularly in war, I was delighted to glean some valuable facts from the book. This novel would make a great addition to your bookshelf for those who are drawn to an all-encompassing love story set during the Second World War. For readers, like me, who often steer clear of books during this period due to fear of not being able to follow along, do not be afraid! The author cleverly weaves historical facts into the book without overwhelming the reader.
VieVie La Fontaine
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