All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Lana’s War by Anita Abriel

on February 25, 2021

Lana’s War 
Anita Abriel
Simon & Schuster AUS
2020, 336p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/}:

Paris, 1943: Lana Antanova is rushing to tell her husband she is pregnant when she witnesses him being executed by a Gestapo officer for hiding a Jewish girl in a piano. Overcome with grief, Lana loses the baby.

A few months later, a heartbroken Lana is approached to join the Resistance on the French Riviera. As the daughter of a Russian countess, Lana has the perfect background to infiltrate the émigré community of Russian aristocrats who socialise with Nazi officers, including the man who killed her husband.

Lana’s cover story makes her the mistress of a wealthy Swiss playboy, the darkly handsome and charismatic Guy Pascal, and her base his villa in Cap Ferrat. Together they make a ruthlessly effective team. Consumed by her mission, Lana doesn’t count on becoming attached to a young Jewish girl or falling helplessly in love with Guy.

As the Nazis close in, Lana’s desire to protect the ones she loves threatens to put them all at risk.

I read Anita Abriel’s previous book and quite enjoyed it. I didn’t get a chance to read this one when it was first released but I got through my February TBR pile quite early so I’ve been using the latter part of the month to go back and read a few books from previous TBR’s that I didn’t get time to complete. I thought I’d enjoy this but I have to say, there were several fronts on which I found it quite disappointing.

The beginning is good – Lana is 24, living in Paris and happily rushing to tell her husband, a music teacher, that they are expecting a baby. Instead she witnesses his execution and then, because of the trauma, ends up losing their child. Her motivation for joining the resistance is obvious – she wants revenge on the person who murdered her husband for trying to protect a child and she wants the Nazis defeated. Fair enough. She’s paired with Guy, a wealthy Swiss man and gets to travel down to the French Riviera, which isn’t a place I’ve read too much about during World War II. Down on the Riviera, life is much more comfortable than it was in Paris – those with money are still throwing luxurious parties, the casino is still operating, there’s still food and no one appears to have or need rationing coupons. Life was good while the Italians were in charge but now that the Germans have taken over, there’s a slow tightening up of freedoms and all the Jewish people in the area are being rounded up and sent to camps.

After that, I just really struggled to get into the story down in the Riviera. For a start, Lana is chosen for this role because she’s a blonde Russian, so she’s obviously what the German officers will find attractive.  Luckily her mother married a wealthy Frenchman after fleeing her homeland, so she can provide Lana with an array of beautiful gowns to wear. So of course everyone is immediately besotted with her. The Germans all seem to want her, Guy wants her too (their cover is that they’re lovers reunited after the death of Lana’s husband) plus she meets an Englishman and he falls in love with her minutes after meeting her. Lana has no training in what she’s supposed to do, no instruction on communicating in a playful way which will also enable her to get information out of the German officers but she manages to do this effortlessly and get them to basically forget their duties with very little effort on her part. I didn’t really find any of this believable, that her allure was such that German officers who are to be involved in serious raids forego them just because a pretty woman they’ve talked to like, twice, turns up and distracts them. Also one of the men she must converse with is the man she watched murder her husband and although she does falter occasionally in his presence, she pulls it together better than I would’ve expected for someone who has been a widow for a mere few months when the man who made her such, is in front of her.

Lana’s motivation felt like there should have been a scene in this book where there is some sort of confrontation, something where Lana gets to have the satisfaction of exacting her revenge, or telling the person how/why/etc she’s there and what she’s accomplished. Instead this fizzles out for me in a frustrating manner. The book skips forward in time to well after the war which felt lazy and although I questioned the romantic attachment Lana did make because of its quickness (it did not feel it naturally evolved for me, particularly due the timeline. I understand it’s a different time in the way, things perhaps move quicker because time is short, tomorrow is not guaranteed etc) the direction of it after the romantic attachment was abrupt – it felt very jarring, the excuses very inadequate and it made me wonder why on earth Lana would want to ever get involved with this person again. I’m never a big fan of the “….and so 10 years went by, here’s a recap” and if I’m completely honest, the way this ended felt ridiculous to me. I can’t say more without spoiling it….but I wanted to give Lana a good shake for the choices she made in the final pages.

Unfortunately, the characters in this were not compelling enough for me to make up for the fact that the plot felt held together very loosely and the ending was one of the least satisfying that I’ve read in a while.


Book #28 of 2021

Lana’s War is the 13th book read for The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2021

It also counts towards my 2021 Historical Fiction Reading Challenge. It’s the 7th book completed.

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