An unforgettable story of resilience and resistance set during WWII and present-day France on a secluded island off the coast of BrittanyNatalie Morgen made a name for herself with a memoir about overcoming her harsh childhood after finding a new life in Paris. After falling in love with a classically trained chef, they moved together to his ancestral home, a tiny fishing village off the coast of … village off the coast of Brittany.
But then Francois-Xavier breaks things off with her without warning, leaving her flat broke and in the middle of renovating the guesthouse they planned to open for business. Natalie’s already struggling when her sister, Alex, shows up unannounced. The sisters form an unlikely partnership to save the guesthouse, reluctantly admitting their secrets to each other as they begin to heal the scars of their shared past.
But the property harbors hidden stories of its own. During World War II, every man of fighting age on the island fled to England to join the Free French forces. The women and children were left on their own…until three hundred German troops took up residence, living side-by-side with the French women on the tiny island for the next several years.
When Natalie and Alex unearth an old cookbook in a hidden cupboard, they find handwritten recipes that reveal old secrets. With the help of locals, the Morgen sisters begin to unravel the relationship between Violette, a young islander whose family ran the guesthouse during WWII, and Rainier, a German military customs official with a devastating secret of his own.
I enjoyed this book and didn’t want it to end. The characters were the best part of the book, would like to meet them and have some coffee together. How fun would it be to visit this interesting and challenging place.
I liked the authors transition from present to WWIi in every chapter. The author provided excellent descriptions of the island, the characters, and the islands history.
This is an excellent book. I hated foe the book to end.
Off the Wild Coast of Brittany tells the stories of two sisters who have come through an unconventional and rigorous upbringing. Natalie is renovating an old inn, and it’s not going according to plan. The inn and the island are charming and carry so much history. Perhaps that history can bring these sisters together. Then we travel to the past, to the woman who occupied the cottage the girls are renovating. Set in World War II, the secrets Natalie and Alex are discovering come to light. The opposing points of view and timelines tell a complete and utterly engaging story.
If there was anything I didn’t love, it was Blackwell’s focus on Natalie’s jaw. We know she’s stressed, so we didn’t need the constant reminder of it. But when I look past that minor thing, there is a lot to like in this book. I like both the present and the past stories. I loved Alex and how good she was for her sister. I’m also a big fan of historical fiction set in WWII, and I liked Violette’s story just as much. The island is captivating, and I loved its quirks and its history. Sometimes, small-town life is just the thing a person needs to move on. Overall, an incredibly enjoyable read. Thank you, Berkley Publishing, for sending this along!
Sisters meeting on an isolated island off the coast of Brittany after not seeing each other for ten years is where we meet Alex and Natalie.
Alex arrived unannounced and didn’t tell her sister why.
Natalie was restoring a beautiful home but had to stop because her boyfriend returned to France and wasn’t planning to come back. Natalie is also an author of a popular book about this island and her love life which is now non-existent. She has to worry about the next book which was to be focused on the romance between her and Francois-Xavier.
Both sisters had secrets which they finally shared with each other.
While exploring the house, they found a hidden space in the attic that held an old cookbook, costumes, and beautifully embroidered linens. Why were these things hidden?
We then travel back to the island during WWII and meet the women left to fend for themselves after all the men had gone off to war.
The women weren’t alone for long, though, because the Germans invaded the island, lived in their homes, took their food, and gave orders.
The characters will steal your heart and make you want to immediately book a plane to this island to soak up its quaintness.
As you begin to love the characters and the island, the two stories blend together through the cookbook that holds the secrets to the island’s past..
A hundred-year-old resident also helped to reveal secrets.
Ms. Blackwell’s writing pulls you in and puts you right into the story line to enjoy what the characters are enjoying and what they are suffering through.
You may even learn some French and learn about French cooking and cooking terms.
If you are a fan of WWII, authors, lovely, isolated islands, hidden spaces, long-kept secrets, and Ms. Blackwell’s books, do not miss OFF THE WILD COAST OF BRITTANY. 4/5
This book was given to me by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
A house on an island has brought the mystery of who lived there during WWII together with the present day. As Natalie and her sister, Alex, work to remodel a house they find many hidden treasures and turn to the island’s residents to decipher them. As Natalie and Alex work towards their future, solve some of the mysteries of the past, they must also come to understand what their own histories mean for themselves and be able to accept it.
Juliet Blackwell tells a story that pulled me in, kept me reading, and had me invested in Natalie, Alex and Violette. I love the flashbacks to WWII just as much as I love the sisterhood between Alex and Natalie. Their stories intertwine and come together perfectly telling a beautiful and enchanting story of family, friendship, and acceptance.
Off the Wild Coast of Brittany, by Juliet Blackwell, takes readers to a fictional island off the coast of Brittany, Ile de Feme, both in present day and during the occupation of France during World War 2. Told with three narrators, the book tells the story of three women, Natalie, Alex, and Violette and their lives on the “island of women”.
There are many things I enjoyed while reading Off the Wild Coast of Brittany, especially the present-day story of sisters Natalie and Alex. Blackwell does a beautiful job of bringing these two characters to life and showcasing their love for each other. Despite a shared childhood off the grid with their paranoid, doomsday-prepper father, the two women found themselves very different people. When Alex appears on Natalie’s doorstep on Ile de Feme, they find themselves with a chance to be true sisters. Their journey to rediscovering each other and building a strong relationship was the highlight of the book. As they reconnected, their affection and respect for each other, originally based on growing up together, grew into a true sisterly bond and a strong friendship.
It was also the inhabitants of the present-day Ile de Feme that made Off the Wild Coast of Brittany an enjoyable read. They are a true cast of characters from the grumpy restaurant owner to the elderly healer to newcomer Jean-Luc. Together all of these characters made reading the present-day chapters a true joy as Blackwell gave them dynamic personalities that I was eager to get to know.
It was the historical portion of Off the Wild Coast of Brittany that eventually fell flat for me. While Blackwell’s descriptions of the island were lovely, the story of Violette never quite took off and the idea of an “island of women”, whose men left to fight the war, never gained the traction I had hoped it would. Instead, there’s an absence of vitality in Violette’s chapters that I found in Alex and Natalie’s. From Alex and Natalie, we get a sense of expectation as their stories unwind, an eagerness to keep reading. From Violette there was a heaviness that never found purpose.
It’s hard for me to rate this as I loved more than half of it, yet the letdown of the historical portions seems like a huge disappointment. Overall, I give Off the Wild Coast of Brittany 3.5 stars.
Thank you to Berkley and NetGalley for an early copy in exchange for honest feedback.
Off the Wild Coast of Brittany was published in March 2021 by Berkley.