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The book is a collection of interesting, moving stories about people from various wine regions of France during the German occupation. The performance is so theatrical it nearly ruins the book.
The text is a collection of essentially unrelated stories covering 1939-46 France. There are some recurring characters, but mostly the stories are self contained and told at a very personal level. There is some reflection about the war in general and the currents of history, but the focus of the book is on individuals. The stories are funny, passionate, sad and inspirational. The writing is very good and all major regions get a nod.
The performance is terrible. The reader affects an outrageous French or German accent (think Monty Python accents) every time a character speaks--even though they are all speaking in English. He even has some English and American accents later in the book. When you have a German arguing with a Frenchman the rapidly switching accents require tremendous effort to follow and I felt it contributed nothing to the text. Add in some over-acting and his Hitler is almost unbearable.
Most history books mention that France quickly fell and then was liberated several years later but the time in between is rarely examined. The authors do a good job of describing the daily uncertainty and moral ambiguities of living and working in an occupied country. They do not appear to have a bias and manage to portray some of the occupying Germans as complicated characters, not caricatures.
I enjoyed the text but almost couldn't finish the book because of the overly dramatic performance.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
This is a vino-centric history of WWII. It is told in an anecdotal style that is quite entertaining if at times somewhat disjointed. The broader scope of the war and the global impact it had on the formation of the modern world are beyond the scope of this lighthearted work. This book relates the triumph of the human spirit over adversity and does it in an engaging feel-good manner. For me it was a nice departure from the usual WWII histories I delve into. Much of the book revolves around the ways the French wine makers managed to preserve some of their best vintages from the hands of their Nazi occupiers. At times it has a Hogan’s Heroes vibe to it with the French underground seeming to run circles around the oblivious German overlords. And isn’t this the real story of war; that no matter how tough are the times, people will always try to triumph? This is the story of people placed in a bad situation and not only make the best of it but look beyond to a better future time when life might return to normal. I think this is the kind of thing historians are really looking for in by returning time and again to the battlefields of WWII. It is curious to find such a profound truth is such a simple book. Perhaps one must first wade through a panoply of thirty-hour “serious” histories of WWII to be able to discover it here.
Todd McLaren gives a fine narration. I always enjoy his slightly sarcastic delivery. His accents of French and German voices are decidedly from a native English speaking American intonation, but that’s OK because that is how I sound when I think them in my own head.
3 of 3 people found this review helpful