I know people who say they won't read a book if it doesn't grab them in the first page or two. Phillipe countered it might be better without dogs—just for the sake of the argument—since seeing to the dogs was a distraction from the walk itself. Then, with his dogs trotting before them, he accompanied Louis on his way. They sat down and ordered steak, which arrived after a while. The story is very atmospheric, conveying the deadly and wrenching nature of daily life under enemy occupation. As he passed, the man greeted Louis with a salute and disappeared back into the fog. The village was in Vichy, France, the part nominally controlled by the French in goose-step with their Nazi occupiers.
Steiner brings the period to life in a compelling manner, even if his lead is in the background for most of the book. He had gone into hiding. When the waiter came to my table, I asked for a steak. It's a philosophical treatise, and it will make you think. Steiner makes effective use of extended flashback to weave the tale. You bring them up, just as you bring up the Third Reich and collaboration, as though their part in all this clarifies things, as though the fact of their persecution—which, by the way, I do not deny—renders all moral ambiguity irrelevant.
German soldiers could get steak, but a French citizen could not. That first day of walking Louis stopped for lunch in the small village of Beaumarchais. Some nights, when the weather was fair, he simply lay back under the black sky and stared upward until he was lulled to sleep by the sight of infinity. He establishes himself there, and starts to renovate an old farm house. This depended in large part on the manipulation of others—people and countries—frequently to their own detriment and even harm. He was not even sure he could find the place. Two uniformed guards escorted him back to his office.
So many sentences about a French village occupied by the Nazis, the collaboration there, the resistance, so many actions that resonate with a cold finger up the spine. This story may not be what you expect. He closed his eyes as he ate each cherry. Go about your business and hope for the best? The gate behind him passed through a high stone wall to a modest and slightly ramshackle Renaissance château. I can still taste that steak I could not get, better than any steak I have ever eaten.
The story follows the town over Louis Morgon lost his job and his family. Louis went back to the bench by the monument. The characters face successive dilemmas and get swept up in dangerous events, sometimes taking sides by default rather than choice. However, the story is gripping and there is definitely a mystery. But most people also seem to have a secret life, perhaps even more than one. I was bored with my studies and bored with my life. However, during the renovations, he discovers evidence of a long forgotten crime hidden beneath the floorboards.
Louis revealed himself to be an interesting and engaging conversation partner, and so Phillipe invited him to stay for dinner. This had remained a satisfactory arrangement for more than twenty-five years. After following the criminal proceedings against Vichy officials. The story's great strength is that it captures the perspective well of what it's like to be occupied by an enemy nation. Her mouth was close to his ear so he would be able to hear.
A small service road took him out of the airport. There are two women who both lost husbands to the Germans in the Great War. His downfall came precisely becausehe was aware of the moral ambiguities. He waltzed with Madame Chalfont, of course, and with Solesme Lefourier, who would later be his neighbor and then his lover. Louis did not know exactly how or why. And you certainly were never tested by the moral ambiguities we French have encountered. He brings the materials to the local police officer, Jean Renard, whose father had a similar post under the Vichy regime.
Still, I was hooked enough to submit this novel to the first chapter test. I can still taste that steak I could not get, better than any steak I have ever eaten. I read this wonderful novel shortly after finishing Mission to Paris by Alan Furst, who is far better known than Steiner. He opened a box of cigars and held it toward Louis like a reward for having spoken up again. And there are the town officials who must deal with their Nazi overseers. He decides to take some time to sort his life out and begins a long walk across France, ending up in the little village of St-Leon.
Very enjoyable for how the novel brought this reader to a better understanding of the complexities of living in an occupied country. The traces of passing generations, of centuries of suffering and redemption, comforted him. It was that France, and more specifically the village of Saint-Léon-sur-Dême, were exactly where he longed to be. A small milestone said it was five kilometers to Saint-Léon. They jumped in with both feet. He told me there was no steak available.