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3.1 of 5 stars 3.10  ·  rating details  ·  306 ratings  ·  66 reviews
A stunning war-time novel set in France from Booker-shortlisted author Michèle Roberts.

After every war there are stories that are locked away like bluebottles in drawers and kept silent. But sometimes the past can return: in the smell of carbolic soap, in whispers darting through a village after mass, in the colour of an undelivered letter.

Jeanne Nerin and Marie-Angèle Bau
Hardcover, 240 pages
Published May 10th 2012 by Bloomsbury (first published January 1st 2012)
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Maine Colonial
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
The setting of World War II was almost incidental to the story. The real focus was on the women and girls and their experiences - shaped by the war, but not a war story.

What I loved about this book was the way it showcased how much our perspective on life changes based on where we are in life. One woman's hero can be seen from another angle as a money grubbing jerk. We see the events of the war through Marie-Angèle's eyes first, so we know what the general shape of the war will be. But she is a
This is the story of two French girls, one Christian and one part Jewish, who grew up together. Much of it took place during WW 2 during the Occupation. Their lives took very different turns. It was beautifully written, and I recommend it.
I thought this was a good attempt that didn't quite succeed for me. There were many parts of it where I loved the language, but I found the second half rather confusing.
Betsy Ross
Jeanne and Marie-Angele are childhood friends who come from opposite backgrounds and find themselves drifting apart over the years. One had everything she could ever imagine while the other had nothing and was often hungry, and yet their lives aren't really all that different. They crave love and security and desire families of their own. They want to belong but are fearful, lost and numb after growing up during wartime in France. They dream about life after the war.

There are some beautiful part
Didn't even make it to 50 pages.
Andrea Broomfield
When people are deprived of something, particularly food, they cannot stop thinking about it. It haunts them. Scents of cooking follow them. They zone in on it at the expense of other things. While Roberts' novel is not about starvation, it is about deprivation, not only of food, but also of beauty and love. Hence, when Jeanne Nerin is lucky enough to obtain any one of these things, they loom larger than life in her narrative. The cheese sandwich that Bernie offers her aboard the ferry to London ...more
I don’t mind, as a reader, rising to meet the challenge of an author, but there needs to be a payoff, and that’s what’s missing from “Ignorance.”

The book centers on Jeanne and Marie-Angele, who are classmates at Catholic school but not really friends and certainly not peers. Jeanne’s mother does laundry and mending for Marie-Angele’s mother, who runs a grocery with her husband. The disparity between their family situations -- as Jeanne puts it, “she had too much of everything and I didn’t have e
The synopsis on amazon is rather different to the one which I read on netgalley, and I feel it represents the book much better. I went into the story expecting a story which looked back on war times, and something which had been hidden within that time, some great secret. What I got was the story of two women, childhood friends who had started on a similar path but ended up going in completely different directions.

The war was somewhat of an important factor in the story, however it was only sign
This focuses on two girls from a French village around the time of WWII, they are reluctant friends for a brief while and then their paths diverge. Jeanne is the daughter of an impoverished cleaner and washerwoman, who is a convert from Judaism, but remains a Jew in the eyes of the villagers. Marie-Angèle is firmly of the bourgeoisie her father is a grocer, and her mother is that gossiping stereotype who congratulates herself on her generosity, but criticizes and gossips about the objects of her ...more
Jul 20, 2013 Jan marked it as to-read
What attracted me was this review from the Grauniad:
There are at least two types of ignorance. The first reflects lack of teaching and experience, the second a more subtle, deliberate failure to know what ought to be known. Two young girls, Marie-Angèle Baudry and Jeanne Nérin, grow up in a convent school in the French provinces, in the decade before the second world war. Sexual ignorance – indeed, sexual blankness – is what their culture requires from them. They need to be educated, but not too
IGNORANCE by Michele Roberts

SYNOPSIS: From Amazon

Jeanne and Marie-Angèle grow up, side by side yet apart, in the Catholic village of Ste Madeleine. Marie-Angèle is the daughter of the grocer, inflated with ideas of her rightful place in society; Jeanne’s mother washes clothes for a living and used to be a Jew. When war arrives, the village must play its part in a game for which no one knows the rules – not the dubious hero who embroils Marie-Angele in the black market, nor the artist living alon
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
This book was selected for the long list for the Orange Prize. It illustrated a very interesting cross section of lives affected by WW2, namely two women who start out as friends. Taking place in a small French village during the time of Nazi occupation, the book follows a few different narrators and spans from right before the Nazi takeover to a good 10 years after. I enjoyed the setting of the cozy little French village and the felt that the descriptions and tough characters really embodied an ...more
Annemarie Neary
This is a tale of the abuses and skewed morality of a community in occupied France for which war brings both winners and losers. Central is the chameleon-like Maurice, the sleek black marketeer who provides Marie-Angele with wealth and bourgeois respectability, but who is also capable of extreme sexual violence against Jeanne. At one point he seems to be about to turn into a kind of Schindler-figure, but later he is seen to be fleecing his desperate Jewish clients of their life savings in return ...more
Jo Barton
Jeanne Nerin and Marie-Angèle Baudry grow up in the small French village of Ste Madeleine, where Marie-Angèle as the daughter of the local grocer thinks she is superior to her friend, Jeanne, whose mother, a Jewess, washes clothes for a living. However, the outbreak of WW2 will alter the dynamics, not just of the two girls, but also of the time in which they live.

This is not a story exclusively about war; it is rather more the story of the individual effects of war on a community and as both Jea
The book is well written, the prose beautiful in demonstrating the characters' strident ignorance during their efforts to survive the war and assessing goals or achievements, their own or those of others. Yet key sections - Dolly, in particular and the potential parallels between the two protagonists, Jeanne and Marie Angele, and the two nuns, Dolly and Mother Lucie - were too opaque. Several characters could have been more developed. Despite the convent setting, religion's potential for ensurin ...more
After my comments when I was near the start of this book, it partly lived up to my hopes.

I found it a bit hard to follow some of the jumps in time and found the last couple of chapters somewhat confusing, hence the *** rating.

I will consider reading other books by this author.
Tracy Macmillan
Loved the sensual language and the vivid descriptions of 2 French villages under the German occupation in WWII. However the main focus is on 2 girls/young women and their interwoven lives. Must read more from this author!
The story of two girls growing up in a small town in France during WWII. They attend the same convent school despite being from two very different backgrounds, and their paths through life and through the war diverge even further. A novel about the difficult moral choices people made during the Occupation, and about the lack of any black and white certainty in such times. No one is completely innocent and some who are complicit with the Nazis are not clearly evil either. This is a complicated an ...more
A beautifully written book. The characters seem real, the atmosphere is tense and sinister. A fantastic portrayal of the ugliest part of human nature. Lost one star because I found the ending a bit flat.
This book was really hard for me to follow, especially since there are no quotation marks when anyone speaks. At first I thought it was interesting, but then it just became annoying, and eventually I realized I was reading over what characters were saying as though it was part of the narration.

I can't say that the book wasn't well-written because it was, but when the book isn't put together well, it doesn't matter how beautiful your language is or how great your ending is (the ending was the on
Karen Lowe
Exquisitely written as usual - a feast for the senses. Interwoven tales of lives in a French village during the German occupation.
Oct 12, 2013 Gina rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
This was an interesting book. I had a hard time figuring out if I was liking it or not while reading. On one hand it was an interesting juxtaposition of stories. Then again the two stories felt like they were pushing the morals of not judging others, and looks can be deceiving. There was also the free association writing, which felt a bit poetic at times, but was really hard to figure out what was going on sometimes. If I don't over think the book it was enjoyable, but I got the feeling the book ...more
Stacy culler
France during the holocaust

The authors style is fragmented sentences and scrambled chronology. Although the characters were interesting and the events of their lives compelling, I had some difficulty following the chain of events.
3.5 stars for this tale of two childhood friends (one a middle-class Protestant girl, one a lower-class Jewish girl) living in France in WW2. Although they make similar decisions, their different stations in life provide for very different outcomes. The author switches voices in alternating chapters but the technique left me feeling like the first character's story was unresolved. Oh, and if you thought people in the 1940s generally didn't have premarital sex, this book might change your mind.
Michele Roberts sets her novel in two neighbouring Catholic villages in Nazi-occupied France. Through the voices of four young women she charts lives that are warped by the deprivation and poverty of the times as well as by sexual ignorance and racial and religious prejudices. The period is excellent evoked using powerful and highly poetic imagery. I loved the growing artistic awareness of the young Jewish girl Jeanne, whose imagination colours her impoverished existence.
Jeanne Nerin and Marie-Angele Baudry grow up together in the small French village of St Madeleine. Marie-Angele – the grocer’s daughter grows up with a sense of entitlement and Jeanne – whose mother is cleaning lady (and a former Jew) learns to grasp at every chance throws at her. When WWII breaks out – both girls do what they believe is necessary to survive. The book is quite beautifully written but at times I found it vague and difficult to follow.

I liked this one, the way you only see the full story when you put together things told from the different viewpoints of the characters. Sex and religion - just what I remember from reading Roberts when I was much younger. But also showing us that history is not as black-and-white as we might like to think and raising important issues that are only now, perhaps, being dealt with in countries that suffered under Nazi occupation.
Anna Omar
I always enjoy Michele Roberts work and this was no exception. Her writing is so sensual and she captures the bleak poverty and deprivation suffered during WW2.
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Michèle Brigitte Roberts is the author of twelve highly acclaimed novels, including The Looking Glass and Daughters of the House which won the W.H. Smith Literary Award and was shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Her memoir Paper Houses was BBC Radio 4's Book of the Week in June 2007. She has also published poetry and short stories, most recently collected in Mud- stories of sex and love (2010). Hal ...more
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“He longed for company. He was cruel because he didn't know whether or not people felt pain and he wanted to find out and also he wanted to give them his pain to keep for their own.” 0 likes
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