Wednesday 1 February 2017

A Discovering Diamonds Review of: THE SEVEN LETTERS by Jan Harvey

Amazon UK £3.99 / £9.98 
Amazon US $5.06 (e book only found) 
Amazon CA $ n.a 

Mystery / War Adventure
WWII / Present Day
France / England

“When Claudette Bourvil is recruited to the French Resistance the last thing she expects is that she will be sent to work in the heart of Paris to spy on senior Nazi officers.

Claudette learns how to survive in a city ravaged by war, where the citizens are murdered on the whim of the occupying force. Constantly under threat of discovery, and in danger of losing her life, Claudette risks everything when she falls in love with the wrong man, the worst kind of man.

Over seventy years later, in rural Oxfordshire, Connie Webber discovers seven letters linked to a famous playwright, Freddy March. The letters will eventually lead her to Paris where she discovers the horrific reason behind Freddy’s lifelong depression. As his mother’s story unfolds Connie uncovers a dark past that the city has tried to erase from history.”

The Seven Letters gives the reader a dramatic, and occasionally heart-rending insight into the war years when Paris, and France, suffered under the iron rule of the Nazis. Claudette joins the Resistance and finds herself working in a bordello in German occupied Paris. She falls in love … with the enemy.

In modern-day Oxfordshire, England, Connie sees her friend, Freddy March, throw himself in front of a train. The two stories, France during the war, and Freddy’s suicide are connected, as Connie is to discover while clearing Freddie’s house where she finds some letters that lead her to France and some dreadful secrets.

After the initial first person opening sequence the story is told in alternating chapters between the two eras, which I found a little difficult to get used to, but once the pattern settled the different scenes made sense. Switching from first to third person was also a little disconcerting, especially as the prologue, set in the French part of the story, was also first person but Claudette’s subsequent story was third person narrative. Personally I would have preferred third person throughout, and maybe not used a prologue, but then, all authors have their own ideas and vision for their stories. Possibly the cover is a little dull (in colour, not in content) which does not draw the eye to it, especially at thumbnail size, but I assume the idea was to convey a sepia-style photographic-type image of the period.

The intrigue, romance and well-researched historical detail soon grip the attention with the characters becoming ones to care about, although their lives, especially those of the people in war-torn Paris, are occasionally traumatic.

Is the story different from others of this ilk? Undercover Resistance in a war-occupied setting falling in love with an enemy officer? I have read several, so no, but Seven Letters has some delightful good (and bad!) characters, and the mystery element binds it all together nicely. For readers who enjoy novels about the lives of ordinary people and how they survive the horror of war, this should provide a satisfying read.

© Anne Holt

Jan Harvey tells about how and why she wrote The Seven Letters: click here (redirects to Let us Talk of Many Things - Helen Hollick's Blog) 
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