cover image Amandine


Marlena de Blasi, . . Ballantine, $25 (318pp) ISBN 978-0-345-50734-1

De Blasi, a bestselling memoirist (A Thousand Days in Venice ) and food-writer, makes a solid fiction debut with this poignant tale of an orphan growing up in Europe as it descends into WWII. Amandine Gilberte Noiret de Crécy, an illegitimate child born into Polish royalty and ditched at five months by her grandmother at a convent in Montpellier, grows up surrounded by a loving governess, Solange Jouffroi, and adoring nuns and priests. Yet the bitter abbess, Mother Paul, who runs the convent, inexplicably loathes her. Aware of this hatred and longing to find her birth mother, Amandine becomes a serious child who believes there is something wrong with her. After a rash of scarlet fever breaks out at the convent, Solange decides to take Amandine to live with her family, and not long after they leave the convent grounds, they are confronted with the horror the war has brought to France, which has especially dire consequences for Solange. In de Blasi’s tale of unexpected turns taken during the search for understanding and identity, she balances heartbreak, loneliness, fear, and hope with aplomb. (May)