I was hooked on this book right away, but something was pecking at my brain like a rabid chicken, bothering me so much I couldn’t focus on the drama anymore. The voice of the story was Framboise. As American and uncultured as I am, I had no idea how to say that name. Did it rhyme with Fram-toys? Was it Boise like the capital of Idaho? This was driving me to insanity! Finally, I went online to determine how to pronounce a French name. Turns out, it was pronounced like Fram-bwah, just like the raspberry liqueur. OK, mystery solved…moving on. But then at book club, someone said they saw a reference in the book stating it really was Fram-capital of Idaho. Confusion again, but whatevs. I’ll continue to pretend I’m Frenchy legit and think it’s Fram-bwah.
This book had it all…Nazi invaders; family secrets; love, hate and betrayal; manipulation and misunderstandings; childish cruelty; provincial legends and superstition. But the one thing that captured my interest the most was the mother. Oddly enough, I felt not only shock and disgust at the way she treated her children, but also a twinge of protectiveness towards her. These days, it’s more en vogue to express every emotion that darts across your gray matter, but I’ve always been, much like my own mother, more of the ‘hold it in’ mentality. While I express happy and loving emotion without reservation, it’s the negative emotion that I try to contain. The mother in the book took the ‘hold it in’ mentality to the extreme and in the opposite way that I do. She couldn’t express any softness at all. That’s not to say that she didn’t have any softness, as there were several cracks in her armor when her tenderness showed fluorescent, but because she had built up such a record of abuse, the children weren’t able to trust that the kindhearted moments were real. I feel like the mother had a deep wealth of love for her kids, but from her own private demons, possibly a childhood trauma or mental illness, she was locked into a pattern of behavior impossible for her to break free from. When it all comes down to it, though, it doesn’t matter what you’ve been through, don’t take it out on your kids!!! Tell them you love them every day, no matter what! OK, I’m done with the soapbox, but it just needed to be said.All in all, Joanne Harris wrote not only a great novel, but a great book club pick. I would highly recommend it at your next meeting...you'll have much to discuss and even more to mull over on your own.