The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant

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The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant

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Category: Teens
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Linda Lawlor
Reviewed by Linda Lawlor
Summary: France, 1944. The Allies are winning, the Resistance is increasingly daring, and the Germans are responding with cold, vicious brutality. Add to the mix the heady delights of first love and a desperate, burning jealousy, and for one group of French teens the scene is set for both joy and tragedy. Natasha Farrant popped into Bookbag Towers to chat to us.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 240 Date: March 2012
Publisher: Faber and Faber
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 9780571278176

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Longlisted for the CILIP Carnegie Medal 2013

There are many kinds of love in this moving story, from family loyalty and friendship to patriotism, but what really preoccupies the two central characters, Arianne and Luc, is the passion and agony of first love. Every other action, every other desire in this book, is weighed against this all-encompassing emotion, and its effect on the lives of everyone around them is profound.

By the time the book opens France has been occupied for four years, with all that entails of privations, fear, shame and collaboration. In a small village in South-West France, we see many types of people, each handling the situation in a different way. We meet the Resistance leader who hides in plain sight and does whatever he can to halt the progress of the German soldiers towards the beaches of Normandy. We see the Mayor, desperately trying to tread a middle line between the villagers and the conquerors and struggling to appear brave for the sake of his people. There is a young German who spends his leisure time writing to his pretty wife back home in an attempt to block out the memory of the terrible things he has been forced to do. And we see, too, the collaborator, a great bully of a man who continues to profit while his neighbours go hungry, justifying his actions by insisting that he has to hand over one or two people in order to save dozens. And in the middle of it all, a group of young people living ordinary lives, still taking the train to school every day, still studying and gossiping, and planning for a time after the war when they will go to university, eat well and wear nice clothes once more. They are young, and the strength of their passions and dreams sweeps them along like a spring tide, but they are in a world which at times demands adult responses and adult behaviour if they are to survive.

History books tell of informers and traitors and brutal oppressors. What they rarely show are the reasons behind actions, the petty, trivial and mundane causes of vast and terrible deeds. A boy is driven to direct action because he is ashamed of his father. A girl remains silent in the face of mortal peril, simply to give her friend the chance of love. Another boy betrays his friends through jealousy, but also shows himself capable of deep and heroic remorse, and a third boy is so ashamed of his part in a killing that he feels he must die too. And not all of the young people shown here are on the same side in this terrible conflict: the Germans and the French both suffer in their different ways, and dream of returning home to the peaceful everyday world war stole from them.

The story told in this book is vivid and heart-wrenching. Average, unremarkable people struggle to do their best in a world they did not create and did not want. They are given heroic grandeur by the impossibility of their situation and the drama of their fates. But the last few pages of this excellent book add a further dimension. The village is a real place, the final, dreadful event actually happened, and visitors can go, even now, to see the ruins of the houses and the church, which have been left exactly as they were on that fateful day just before the Liberation. Could anyone read this story and pass by unmoved?

If you enjoy historical novels about young people living through dramatic and world-changing events, try Crusade by Elizabeth Laird, set in the Middle Ages, or Prisoner of the Inquisition by Theresa Breslin, which takes place in fifteenth-century Spain. They are both excellent.

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Buy The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Things We Did for Love by Natasha Farrant at

Bookinterviews.jpg Natasha Farrant was kind enough to be interviewed by Bookbag.


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