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All That We Have Lost
by Suzanne Fortin
Review

ALL THAT WE HAVE LOST

Cover image of the book 'All That We Have Lost' by author Suzanne FortinA beautiful and devastating dual timeline novel that spans from occupied France in World War Two, to the war-ravaged chateau in 2019. 

2019. When Imogen Wren’s husband dies, she must realise their dream of moving to France on her own. She finds a beautiful abandoned chateau and starts to rebuild her life among its ruins. But she soon notices that the locals won’t come near. A dark web of secrets surrounds the house, and it all seems to centre on the war…

1944. Since the moment German troops stepped foot in her village, the sole aim of Simone Varon’s life has been to avoid them. Until one soldier begins leaving medicine bottles for her sick brother, and she gets to know the man behind the uniform. Then the Resistance comes calling, and she must choose between love and duty – with devastating consequences that will echo through the decades.

As Imogen restores the chateau, she’s determined to uncover the truth – and set to rest the ghosts of the past.

Cover image of the book 'All That We Have Lost' by author Suzanne Fortin

SUZANNE FORTIN

Image of author Suzanne FortinSuzanne writes historical fiction, predominantly dual timeline and set in France. Her books feature courageous women in extraordinary circumstances, with love and family at the heart of all the stories.

Suzanne was a bookworm as a child and this naturally progressed to wanting to write her own stories. It wasn’t until she was on maternity leave with her fourth child, that she thought it was now or never and finally managed to write a complete novel. Having joined the Romantic Novelists’ Association under their New Writers’ Scheme, writing then as Sue Fortin, she sent her manuscript off for a critique.

After another year of working on the novel, Suzanne self-published United States of Love – a contemporary romance. This was then picked up by a traditional publisher, HarperCollins and under their imprint Harper Impulse (now One More Chapter) this book was republished. Writing as Sue Fortin, another seven books in the romantic suspense genre were published with HarperCollins.

More recently, Sue has moved to writing historical fiction and publishes under the name of Suzanne Fortin, with her debut in this genre, The Forgotten Life of Arthur Pettinger released in early 2021 with Head of Zeus imprint, Aria Fiction.

A self-confessed Francophile, Suzanne has a home in the Morbihan region of France and visits as often as she can with her husband and family. The region has been a huge inspiration for Suzanne’s books and is often the backdrop to her writing.

Suzanne was born in Hertfordshire but had a nomadic childhood, moving often with her family, before eventually settling in West Sussex.

Married with four children and two grandchildren – when not behind the keyboard, Suzanne likes to spend her time with them, enjoying both the coast and the South Downs, between which they are nestled.

A keen amateur photographer, Suzanne’s favourite place to hang out on social media is Instagram.

Visit Suzanne at her website

Follow Suzanne on Twitter

Connect with Suzanne on Facebook

Cover image of the book 'All That We Have Lost' by author Suzanne Fortin

FIRST LINES

CHAPTER ONE

1944

“Papa always told us that to be brave doesn’t mean you have no fear, it just means you can move forwards in spite of that fear. I never truly understood what he meant when I was younger. It wasn’t the sort of fear of being told off for arguing with my younger brother, Pierre, or for being late getting up, or for daydreaming of playing my flute in an orchestra when I should be concentrating on my schoolwork. No, that’s not the sort of fear Papa meant. He was talking about the fear that makes the heart race, that quickens the pulse, makes sweat gather in the armpits and the hairs prickle on the back of the neck. The fear that bunches up the stomach, tightens itself, so there is a constant feeling of sickness, almost a pain”

Cover image of the book 'All That We Have Lost' by author Suzanne Fortin

MEMORABLE LINES

“Imogen gazed without focus into the depths of her locker. So, now she knew why there was a saying about eavesdroppers never hearing any good of themselves. She had no idea the other women in the office felt that way about her”

.

“She’d been big on scrapbooking in her before life, never in life after James though. No one needed to record the utter grief and heartbreak so they could look back at it in years to come, just to relive those days when life couldn’t possibly be any darker and the future looked an impossible fantasy”

.

“It somehow made her feel closer to him and she relished that connection but, of course, it also hurt like hell. And that was the thing about losing someone, the pain and grief suffocated the love and memories”

.

“I studied the man in front of me. It was hard to see beyond the uniform and not see the German soldier, part of the occupying force, but if I looked closer there was a man, a person, someone with compassion and empathy standing there”

.

“Sometimes, the art of winning is not one big demonstrative action, but many small actions, continuous actions – on their own they seem insignificant, but together they amount to something meaningful”

Cover image of the book 'All That We Have Lost' by author Suzanne Fortin

REVIEW

“Papa always told us that to be brave doesn’t mean you have no fear.
It just means you can move forwards in spite of that fear”

Okay! So, after checking out a few of the early reviews, I had my tissues at the ready before I began reading this book. However, apart from one or two ‘misty eyed’ moments, they weren’t really needed, as although this story was undoubtedly sad at the outset, by the time it reached its conclusion, I felt only uplifted in spirit and full of hope for Imogen and Laurent’s future happiness, with a past laid carefully to rest.

I do also try to never judge a book by its cover, but how could anyone resist such an amazing richness of colour and a sense of time and place. This one is certainly going to stand out amongst its contemporaries on the bookshop shelves!

All That We Have Lost,  is a well structured and beautifully rendered, dual timeline love story with a mystery, set in the same small Brittany town of 1944 and 2019. It is broken down into bite-sized, alternating dateline chapters which are well signposted and easy to follow, and is narrated in the first person by Simone and Imogen, as they each tell their own stories. In a town which has changed relatively little in the intervening years between visits and still boasts a large number of generational families still living there, the two strands of the story weave seamlessly together beautifully, if somewhat painfully, into a whole new chapter which will be secure into the future.

Whilst this is very much a story which features two strong, brave and determined female protagonists, I did find myself favouring Simone’s recollections of a 1944, small provincial town which has been occupied by invading German forces, who have made the local chateau their headquarters, but who have no respect for its history and heritage. She discovers that The Resistance has a very healthy presence in the town, to which she is recruited, when it transpires that she will be required to visit the chateau regularly as part of the German officers “entertainment” evenings, as she is a more than competent flautist. Unfortunately, Simone is also set to lose her heart to the enemy, when she realises that not all German officers are cruel, or condone the actions of many of their comrades. Max has long since decided that not only does “warfare make strange bedfellows”, but it can also make monsters, so he must ultimately decide whether he is prepared to lay down his life for duty or love.

Imogen’s story is a wonderfully sympathetic foil for Simone’s story, when, still recovering from a recent heartbreak of her own, she arrives in this same provincial town, some 70 years later and falls in love with the abandoned and derelict Tredion Chateau, where she decides to make a new beginning for herself, unaware of the vitriol and visceral bad feeling the place stirs in the local population. Matters are brought to a climax when Imogen discovers that her heart can also be tamed and her life transformed, by Laurent Roussell, a local man who has been all but ostracised by those with long memories, who can recall his family connection with Simone Varon and a German soldier. Once they both open up, confront their emotions and lay bare their innermost thoughts, Imogen and Laurent make it their mission to unravel the secrets of the past and set the record straight about Simone’s part in the occupation, thus paving the way for a reconciliation between Laurent and his silent accusers and finally laying the ghosts of the past to rest, freeing the chateau from its curse.

Those are just the bare bones of this compelling, well structured, multi-layered storyline, which has so much to offer, but no more ‘spoilers’ from me! In many respects it represents a fictional eye into the social history and culture of a place where time has stood still for many of its inhabitants. It is rich in atmosphere, emotionally evocative and beautifully textured, presenting a lesson which transcends time, about things not being what they might seem at first sight and how we shouldn’t be too ready to jump to conclusions. The writing is perceptive, fluent and immersive, with a great visuality and depth taking me right to the heart of the action, in this very three dimensional saga, where characters, plot and location, all play an equally important role.

Suzanne has created a well drawn and developed cast of characters, who have been given a strong and commanding voice with which to tell their story, with just the merest of ‘hands on’ touches from their creator. Strong, courageous, resilient and determined female characters are at the heart of both stories, but they are also women of compassion, fortitude and heart. Often complex and emotional, raw and passionate, vulnerable and searching for a sense of belonging; but always genuine, believable and authentic. Even when some of the characters were less than open, honest and truthful, they were still easy to connect with, relate to and invest in, as their motives were never malicious or duplicitous.

This book definitely ticks all the right boxes for the reasons I read and how I want to feel when I have finished the last word and closed that final page. Thank you for taking me on an amazing journey, Suzanne.

Image of author Suzanne Fortin

A complimentary kindle download of this book, for review purposes, was made available by the publisher Aria/Aries Fiction and supplied by NetGalley.

Any thoughts or comments are my own personal opinion and I am in no way being monetarily compensated for this, or any other article which promotes this book or its author.

I personally do not agree with ‘rating’ a book, as the overall experience is all a matter of personal taste, which varies from reader to reader. However some review sites do demand a rating value, so when this review is posted to such a site, it will attract a well deserved 5 out of 5 stars!

 

Written by
Yvonne

I can’t remember a time, even as a child, when I haven’t been passionate about books and reading.
I began blogging, when I realised just how many other people out there shared my passion for the written word and I have been continually amazed at the wealth of books that are available and the amount of great new friends I have made, from literally 'The Four Corners Of The World'.

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10 comments
    • The cover really does stand out and it is also relevant to the storyline, which is always good, as there are plenty which don’t seem to do that these days!

      At its heart, this is definitely a romance, but there is an added mystery element, which raised the stakes for me and made the storyline even more intriguing and interesting.

      Definitely worth your time reading if you are in need of a “feel good” story 🙂

    • The mystery element took the edge of this becoming too romantic quite nicely and the location, although quite narrow in its footprint, was beautifully described!

      Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Love the sound of this, Yvonne. I like these dual timeline stories that involve WW2 and the present day, especially when they’re set in France as there’s such a huge depth of history involving The Resistance. When my late sister-in-law first went to live in France in the 1990s she told us that locals would come up to her to say that they were in The Resistance in the war and she said it was like it was a recent event to them, not fifty years ago. I’m pretty certain I’m going to get this soon.

    • This is exactly what this small village is like. So many of the residents are generational and carry the past with them like a talisman.

      They have long memories about events which happened at the chateau, when it was commandeered by the Nazis.

      They also have many mistaken memories about Simone Varon, which her descendants are finding it hard to shake off and set the record straight. So the mystery which the chateau holds within its walls, is all the more important in getting to the truth about her part in war and laying the matter to rest.

      I think you might enjoy this one and thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Agreed. It sounds like a wonderful story and the cover is great! Perhaps books like this will keep another generation interested in the events from WWII. I fear that with time, young people are forgetting things that shouldn’t be forgotten.

    • I totally agree with your sentiment about the younger generations. There seems to be no real sense of pride or interest in our past struggles to ensure that they are able to live in a free country. Instead so much is made only of the mistakes which we all know have been made along that long and difficult road to freedom, which they simply take for granted.

      This is definitely one of the nicest WWII / dual timeline stories I have read, although I do wonder how long it will be before Dystopian and Fantasy stories dominate the book charts and this style of storyline and writing is consigned as a thing of the past.

      Thank you so much for taking the time to comment 🙂

  • Great! I read recently a story about a woman in France, from the resistence and the German was proved to be a Nazi through and through which, for me, missed a good opportunity to show that the German soldiers were more nuanced than that. It seems that this book offeres exactly that and now I’m curious. I will look to see if I can find the book at my local libraries.

    • The wartime portion of this story definitely showed up quite a few nuances.

      The fact that not all Reich members were there through choice and that they disagreed with many of the orders their superiors decreed. Those same officers also didn’t feel comfortable about destroying so much of the property they confiscated with complete impunity, or abusing their captives both verbally and physically.

      It also brought to the fore that not all locals were collaborators, just because they were ordered to carry out certain tasks by their captors, with fear of punishment for their families being used to coerce them, although their fellow citizens were quick to vilify those they thought to be transgressors, without even thinking that they might be part of the Resistance movement.

      Yes! this was essentially a dual timeline romance, but I really think those little added twists made it so much more.

      I hope that you manage to get hold of a copy, I shall be interested to see what you think of it 🙂

Written by Yvonne

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