Tuesday 8 April 2014

Daughter of Catalonia by Jane MacKenzie

1935. Luis, a charismatic Spaniard, elopes with Elise and they move to a small village in Catalonia. 
But little do they know that war will soon rip them apart. 
Some twenty years later, stifled by her life in England, their daughter Madeleine sets off to learn the truth about her father's death in the French Resistance - returning to the village she once called home. 
Under the heat of the Catalan sun, she soon finds herself confronting her past, facing the shocking secrets of war, and opening her heart to her own love story.

Published by Allison & Busby on 17 April 2014, Daughter of Catalonia is Jane MacKenzie's debut novel.

Opening in November 1942 as Madeleine and her family make their way across the mountains, escaping from Nazi occupied France.  Madeleine, her brother Robert and their Mother Elise intend to return to Elise's English home whilst their father Luis will stay in Catalonia, fighting the cause for freedom.

The story moves forward twenty years.  Elise is dying, having never recovered from the death of her beloved Luis - the man she eloped with, the father of her children, the husband she never saw again after leaving him on that mountain pass in 1942.  After Elise's death, Madeleine is determined that she will escape from the stifling life she leads in her Grandparents house. Her aloof Grandmother and her cold Grandfather were bitterly disappointed by their daughter's choice of husband, and both Madeleine and Robert have suffered ever since.

Almost on a whim, Madeleine travels to France, to Catalonia, to the village of her early childhood. She is determined to find out more about her Father. How did he die? Why did her Mother never speak about him?

In France Madeleine discovers much more than she bargained for, uncovering secrets and lies that are both shocking and life-changing, but also discovering a love that could heal the pain that she inherited from her mother.

Daughter of Catalonia transports the reader to the small close-knit communities in the Catalan region of France, communities who are still scarred by the events of the War. Communities that hold their secrets close, but have long memories.

Jane MacKenzie is a skilled author who magically brings the region to life.  There are some novels that make the reader want to visit the setting immediately, and this one of them. The small towns and villages, the searing heat, the dusty shop fronts, the winding streets.  The village squares with their cafes and shops, populated by characters who are lifelike, colourful and so well created.   The author has captured the feeling of a small community devastated by the events of the war, split by the actions of some, and connected by the loyalty of others.

The plot moves quickly and Madeleine is an interesting and complex character. Sometimes childlike and innocent, but also world-weary and downtrodden, she is complemented by the cast of French characters, each of whom have a large voice and presence in the story.

The small French town setting and the wholesome and incredibly realistic characters that live there make this novel special.  The story is compelling and meticulously researched.  An evocative multi-layered story, I enjoyed it very much.

My thanks to Lesley from Allison & Busby who sent my copy for review.

Jane MacKenzie has lived and worked in many far flung corners of the world, including the Gambia and Switzerland. Having built her own business and enjoyed a spell working at CERN in Geneva, Jane realised her dream of writing. She splits her time between the Scottish Highlands and Roussillon in the South of France, the region which inspired Daughter of Catalonia.

For more information about the author visit her website www.janemackenzie.co.uk
Find her on Facebook  and on Twitter @JaneFMackenzie

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