Marlena de Blasi, the acclaimed author of such delectable memoirs as A Thousand Days in Venice and That Summer in Sicily, now brings her luminous prose to the world of fiction with this remarkable debut novel. Set against the backdrop of Europe as it moves inexorably toward World War II, Amandine follows a young orphan’s journey in search of her heritage.
The story opens in Krakow in 1931, as a baby girl is conceived out of wedlock, the byproduct of a foolish heart and a tragic inheritance. The child’s grandmother, a countess, believes that she is protecting her daughter when she claims that the baby didn’t survive. In truth, however, she deposits the infant at a remote convent in the French countryside, leaving her with a great sum of money and in the care of a young governess named Solange.
Solange takes it upon herself to give the child a distinctive name, Amandine, and the two form a special bond. But even Solange’s unconditional love cannot protect her charge. Mistrusted by both the abbess and the convent girls, the unusually astute and curious Amandine finds her childhood filled with challenges and questions: Who is she? Where does she come from?
Eventually, Solange is forced to choose between the terrors of the convent and those of a global war looming outside its doors. Thus, with a purseful of worthless francs and a sack of provisions, the two flee north toward Solange’s childhood home. But what should have been a two-day journey by train becomes a perilous, years-long odyssey across Occupied France—and deeper into the treacheries of war.
Tracing the flight of Amandine and Solange while peering into the lives of the countess and her daughter, Amandine’s mother, who still mourns and dreams of the child she thinks she lost forever, Marlena de Blasi’s epic novel winds its way toward a dramatic and compelling conclusion, as mother and daughter draw ever nearer. Amandine is a sumptuous tale of identity and survival, persistent hope and unexpected love.
From the Hardcover edition.
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|Title of eBook: Amandine|
|Release Date: 05-18-2010|
|Allowed Countries (hover)|
|Publisher: Ballantine Books|
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Old plane trees reach limb to limb over the wide avenue and, under the parasols of yellow September leaves, a wide black Packard glides. Stippled light, rose and bronze, falls here and there upon three passengers. Funereal in their silence, there are two women and a man. One of the two women holds an infant. A small wedge of light lies across the infant's face, makes blue-black gems of its eyes. The infant is not disturbed by the light, neither closes its eyes to it nor looks away but keeps its gaze, steady and thoughtful, upon the woman who sits on the tufted gray divan across from it, her head turned to face the window. Sullen, aloof, a black-liveried chauffeur drives more slowly than he might. The only sound is the pft, pft, pft of tires rolling over asphalt.
I wish she would keep the creature covered. Why has she taken off its bonnet? Undone all the swaddling when we're so close to the convent? We must be coming upon it. I won't ask Jean-Pierre another time how much longer? How much longer? My neck hurts from twisting it to look away from the creature for all these hours. I can't help but see now how she's grown. I've not really looked at her since the night she was born. What possessed me to ask the nurse to bring her to me then? I'd forbidden Andzelika to see her, and yet I called for her. Seeing her was like seeing Andzelika for the first time. I reached out for her just as I'd reached for my daughter. My arms ached for her as though she were mine. She is mine. I must think of her that way. She is mine and it is I who have chosen not to keep her. Andzelika is seventeen. An unripe seventeen who mourns the boy and cares nothing for the child. Her m...