I’ve read a large amount of historical fiction, specifically about World War II, and I greatly enjoyed The Room on Rue Amélie by Kristin Harmel. The second book I read by her, The Winemaker’s Wife, confirmed Harmel as one of my favorite authors of World War II fiction.
The Winemaker’s Wife is set in the Champagne wine region of France during the German Occupation and centers on two couples—Michel, who owns the winery, and his wife, Inès, and Michel’s chief winemaker, Theo, and his half-Jewish wife, Céline. The book revolves around the work of the French Resistance and is filled with many heart-stopping moments of courage and adversity. I particularly liked Harmel’s descriptions of how the winemakers in the region drew together to help one another and also what life was like in Reims during that period.
But it is the tale of Inès and Céline that is the most mesmerizing. Both women have their own secrets and emotions that they can’t get past and which affect everyone around them. One of Harmel’s strengths is how she makes the reader care about each character without judging them. Inès especially has to make many difficult choices, and not all of them are wise. Harmel does a wonderful job of portraying Inès’s struggles to do the right thing as she deals with her own hurts, and the outcome is very moving.
I also loved the present-day story line of Liv traveling to see her grandmother Edith in France and learning about her past. As the survivors of the Holocaust grow older, it is delightful to read a book that presents a bird’s-eye view of the events during that time, and Edith is a wonderful character. Liv, too, has just the right amount of spunk and we can’t help but to cheer for her as she finds herself and grows as a person. Harmel does a terrific job of combining the two story lines to give the book a poignant yet hopeful conclusion.
I very much look forward to the next work of historical fiction by Kristin Harmel. I can’t wait to be transported again to another place and time in history, peopled with characters I admire and care about.