“This is not a book I would probably have read, except that I picked up a brand-new copy for a buck. I am also reading a lot of books with narrators in two time periods, to get ideas for the novel that I'm rewriting, yet again. In any case, while I breezed through this book in practically no time at all, I feel like it was all empty calories--like eating potato chips for breakfast. It's the Holocaust as chick-lit.
Besides the not-so-artful writing (cliche, overexplaining, redundancy, fake suspense), there was also a shallowness to this character that made me cringe at times. I just didn't buy that this woman was so obsessed by the history of one Jewish family during WWII. I was engaged by the initial question--what will happen to the little brother locked in the cupboard. That's what kept me turning the pages.
I also don't understand why this French author decided to make the main character American, as it was obviously a stretch. This "American" woman seemed so French to me that I had to keep reminding myself (or having the author remind me) of her nationality. When she calls her sister in New York to ask advice on tracking someone down in the U.S., she is dumbfounded when the sister suggests the telephone book. Then the information operator is able to check a name in multiple states, with no city specified. This is just one of a myriad of small details that show a subtle disconnect between cultures, that the author is making assumptions based on her own experience and not taking the time to get the details right. A picky complaint, I know, but these things bug me.
The biggest problem, though, was that the first-person narrator engaged in a lot of exposition and explained herself all the time instead of showing by her behavior what kind of person she was. The conflicts in her life were all too easily resolved or glided over. She was not essentially challenged or changed in any real way. We're asked to believe that she has an epiphany about her self-involved husband (which is telegraphed at the very beginning), but she doesn't really go through any emotional territory to get there. And the final romantic moment--oy! Don't get me started. Cringe, cringe, cringe.”