Sunday 2 June 2013

Léon & Louise

Finished June 2
Léon & Louise by Alex Capus, translated by John Brownjohn

This novel follows the two title characters from before the met during World War I to decades later. Léon is from Cherbourg and when he determines that he doesn't wish to continue his schooling, finds work in a small town on the Marne as a Morse code operator at a railway station. Certain quirks of his character are already set, like his love for odds and ends, developed in Cherbourg when scouring the beaches for flotsam and continued throughout his life. In this small town, Léon meets Louise, a young woman similar in age to himself and also a war worker. Louise works as an office girl for the mayor. Slowly the two develop a friendship, one that looks to endure. But one day, when they are bicycling back from an excursion they are caught in German shelling and air attack and both are injured. After being treated for his wounds, Léon tries to find her, but cannot. It is only a decade later when a chance encounter connects them again. But Léon is married and Louise will not intrude upon that situation. When World War II comes, Léon is forced to do work at the behest of his SS superiors despite his best efforts, and Louise is shipped off to Africa on secret duties. It is several years before she returns to Paris and the story of the two continues.
Told by one of the grandsons of Léon, as a look back following Léon's death, the story shows two good people, connected in a way few are, and determined to do the right thing. An absolutely charming novel.

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