Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat is the second book in the Bone Angel (L’Auberge des Anges) trilogy, which includes Spirit of Lost Angels (2012), Wolfsangel (2013), and Blood Rose Angel (2015). I read this novel without having read the first book, which is set during the French Revolution. Wolfsangel worked very well for me as a standalone.
"The little angel seemed to reassure me that even if it meant taking human lives, we were doing the right thing. We had to drive the Boche away."
~ Wolfsangel, Liza Perrat
Written in the first person, we meet the protagonist, Céleste, in the first chapter of Wolfsangel, at the age of 89. She's still anguished by awful memories of the German occupation in France during World War II. In the second chapter, we're transported back to the beginning of this story, to Céleste's home, L'Auberge de Anges, in 1943. Wolfsangel is mostly set in Occupied France in the (fictitious) village of Lucie-sur-Vionne. The young protagonist, Céleste Roussel, wears an angel talisman "bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen", for protection. German soldiers have taken over the village, and Céleste feels compelled to join the French resistance movement, because she wants to help liberate occupied France. But, love gets in the way. She feels guilty and torn because of her growing feelings for an attractive German soldier with violet-blue eyes, Martin Diehl.
"As the coolness of the river numbed my burning feet, I recalled the pale German from the marketplace. I'd spoken to Germans before, of course, but that had been my first real encounter with the enemy. Like all the villagers, I'd watched them arrive earlier that year to occupy Lucie. We'd all stopped what we were doing."
~ Wolfsangel, Liza Perrat
This creates an intense conflict for Céleste, and is central to the story. Has she fallen in love with the enemy? Should she join the French Resistance Movement along with her brother, Patrick, and his friend, Olivier? She's distraught and confused, but determined to help.
Without revealing too much, there is much to relish in this book--forbidden love, a well-drawn cast of characters, beautiful, descriptive writing--and more. Céleste is an engaging protagonist who struggles with her conscience. Early in the book, she helps the Wolf family, who've escaped from the Gestapo. She allows them to live in the attic of her home, against the wishes of her mother, a natural healer with an illegal business. In some ways, her brusque mother is a mystery to Céleste, and there's realistic, palpable, mother-daughter tension between Maman and Céleste, which adds another dimension to this gripping story.
We know that war is awful. As always, when I read book about World War II, I brace myself for the worst, for the violence I expect to encounter. A phrase I first encountered during my middle-school years came to mind as I read this book: man's inhumanity to man. The violence in this book is absolutely heart-wrenching, and because this book is based on the true story of what happened in 1944 in the village of Oradour-sur-Glane in west-central France, it's all the more poignant.
"There is only one way in which one can endure man's inhumanity to man, and that is to try, in one's own life, to exemplify man's humanity to man."
~ Alan Paton
Many thanks to author Liza Perrat for sending me her book, and for her supreme patience. I would definitely read more books by this very talented author.
Your comments are welcomed.