My Enemy My Love – Review by Martha A. Cheves, Author of Stir, Laugh, Repeat; A Book and A Dish; Think With Your Taste Buds
“I am sorry to burden you with my troubles,” Beatrice said, catching her breath as she did so in an effort to keep calm. “Nonsense, my dear, what are friends for. You must stay the night with us. There is enough food, I’m sure.” Claire looked at Brigitte as she spoke. “You can help me prepare supper tonight, can’t you?” It was more of a demand than a request. “Of course, Mama.” She looked once more at Beatrice and couldn’t help thinking how badly this awful war was treating her. One of her son’s blinded for life, the other still serving at the front presumably, her daughter heavily pregnant with a bastard child and God knows where, and now her husband arrested for the kind of offence that could well result in his execution. It was little wonder that she was in tears when her once so secure world was rapidly crumbling around her. Not for the first time she decided that the evil Boches had much to answer for, given the misery they were visiting on so many innocent people whose lives they were trampling underfoot. Then she thought of her letter to Friedrich; it was enough to make her want to laugh. “This war is making fools of us all,” she mumbled to herself.
Aubert and Beatrice Guilloux, along with their two sons Antoine and Philippe and daughter Cosette live in the countryside of the French city of Lille. Aubert, with Philippe as his accountant, has a successful tannery business that has allowed him to provide everything needed to make his family happy in all of their desires. Their estate consists of their own home as well as cottages for some of the servants, a stable full of horses and through Aubert’s ability to manage money, rental property for yet another income. Things couldn’t be better…that is until WWI started and the Germans invaded France and took over Lille. Aubert and his family were required to move into one of the cottages giving the house up to the German officers.
Cosette had led a fairly sheltered life where her family supplied her every whim so moving into the cottage did become quite a change for her. Their horses had been taken over by the Germans so her love for riding and jumping had come to a stop. She, nor anyone else in the family, was allowed to go near their old home. All she had left to entertain her were walks to the lake. But these she found were quite dangerous as three German soldiers captured her with the intent of rape. Her rescuer turned out to be a German officer that caught her attention as well as her heart.
My Enemy My Love is another of those books that I almost didn’t read. I enjoy reading some history but have never enjoyed reading anything written about WWI or WWII. It’s always given me a ‘dark’ feeling about life during this time. But, as I’ve stated before, I will read at least the first 50 pages of any book before declining. My Enemy My Love turned out to be another of those books that I just kept going after the first 50 pages. Yes, it still gave me my ‘dark’ feeling but it also showed me the strength people find deep inside themselves when faced with the dangers of war and injustice. I find myself wondering if I could be so brave. Could I risk my own life to help my country? Would I hate ALL of those that brought this pain upon my world or would I look at them as just doing what they are told and must by their own leaders? Could I actually love one of them knowing that if found out I would be considered a traitor even by my own family? Through My Enemy My Love, Author James Walker has given me many mixed emotions and feelings making it difficult to answer any of these questions for myself. This is truly a great book that took not only a strong imagination but an awful lot of research. See, other than the main characters, most of the other characters are real and went through what he epics within this writing.
A message from the Author - The book was dedicated to my wife but perhaps I should have dedicated it to my grandfather who was still suffering from the physical and mental impact that the Great War had on him more than 50 years after it ended. I also have a German great-grandfather , which has influenced my perspective on the two world wars, and a love of French history which made the research a pleasure rather than a pain. My other grandfather, who died before I was born was an 'old contemptible' at Mons in August 1914 and a cavalryman to boot, so I have watched the successful war film War Horse recently with some emotion knowing that he was caught up in the madness of sending horses against machine guns!