Emmanuelle (Emma) is the baker with the secret. She is baking bread for the the Nazis under orders from the Kommandant, but finding a way to sneak some food to her fellow French villagers. She’s the lead character, but a cynic, a religious skeptic, and a pessimist. The plot has the advantage of moving forward chronologically and is thus easy to follow. This is unfashionable these days, it seems. It took me a long time to get into the story, though, mainly because most of the characters aren’t very likeable. Perhaps that’s inevitable in a story of occupied France. Everyone must compromise themselves or their morals to survive or help their relatives survive. There was also a large dollop of implausibility. But the last 20% or so of the book moved rapidly and had me fully engaged.
There was one stylistic choice that left me bewildered, although it didn’t particularly hurt the story. The author never refers to Germany, Germans, or German the language. The same is true for France and French. It is always “the occupying army” or “our language.” There were plenty of French and German words and names, so it was no secret what these unnamed people and languages were. I don’t get the point. The writing was serviceable, if not elegant, and the plot worthwhile.