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The Storyteller of Casablanca Kindle Edition
In this evocative tale from the bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Gift, a strange new city offers a young girl hope. Can it also offer a lost soul a second chance?
Morocco, 1941. With France having fallen to Nazi occupation, twelve-year-old Josie has fled with her family to Casablanca, where they await safe passage to America. Life here is as intense as the sun, every sight, smell and sound overwhelming to the senses in a city filled with extraordinary characters. It’s a world away from the trouble back home—and Josie loves it.
Seventy years later, another new arrival in the intoxicating port city, Zoe, is struggling—with her marriage, her baby daughter and her new life as an expat in an unfamiliar place. But when she discovers a small wooden box and a diary from the 1940s beneath the floorboards of her daughter’s bedroom, Zoe enters the inner world of young Josie, who once looked out on the same view of the Atlantic Ocean, but who knew a very different Casablanca.
It’s not long before Zoe begins to see her adopted city through Josie’s eyes. But can a new perspective help her turn tragedy into hope, and find the comfort she needs to heal her broken heart?
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"A novel that will whisk you to another time and place, The Storyteller of Casablanca is a tender tale of hope, resilience, and new beginnings." --Imogen Clark, bestselling author of Postcards From a Stranger
"Fiona Valpy has an exquisite talent for creating characters so rounded and delightful that they almost feel like family, and this makes what happens to them feel very personal." --Louise Douglas, bestselling author of The House by the Sea--This text refers to the audioCD edition.
About the Author
Fiona spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007, before returning to live in Scotland. Her love for both of these countries, their people and their histories, has found its way into the books she's written.
She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women, especially during the years of the Second Word War, and her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place.
An acclaimed Number 1 bestselling author, Fiona Valpy's books have been translated into more than a dozen languages worldwide.--This text refers to the audioCD edition.
- ASIN : B08V5K7W31
- Publisher : Lake Union Publishing (21 September 2021)
- Language : English
- File size : 3882 KB
- Text-to-Speech : Enabled
- Screen Reader : Supported
- Enhanced typesetting : Enabled
- X-Ray : Enabled
- Word Wise : Enabled
- Print length : 315 pages
- Page numbers source ISBN : 1542032105
- Best Sellers Rank: 5 in Kindle Store (See Top 100 in Kindle Store)
- Customer Reviews:
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Top reviews from Australia
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Its only the last quarter of the book that has any depth to it so in my opinion, not worth bothering with. A big let down after the earlier books.
Guillaume, Delphine, Annette and Josie, flee France when the German’s invade Paris, they eventually arrive in Casablanca, and here they hope to get visas, pass the medical checks and immigrate to America. Josie’s loves Casablanca, it’s warm climate, sights, culture, food, people, visiting the library and spending time with her new friend Nina. The whole process is slow and tedious waiting for a boat to take them to safety, the war is getting closer to Morocco, the Duval's money is running out, German soldiers arrive and the families scared.
Zoe and Tom Harris move to Casablanca for a fresh start, their marriage is struggling, other British expats live nearby and the wives make Zoe feel welcome. However, Zoe becomes captivated by Josie’s story, she wants to discover what happened to the Duval’s and did they make it to America? Zoe and Josie both meet interesting people while living in Casablanca, they both like to help others and feel a deep connection to the place. The story is tied together by themes of hope, friendship, grief, and the importance of storytelling in Moroccan culture and it's deep history.
The Storyteller of Casablanca will have you captivated from the very first page, a beautifully written story, I loved the main characters, Fiona Valpy weaves her magic once again, and what an emotional and unexpected ending. If you enjoyed the Beekeeper’s Promise and I can guarantee you will enjoy reading The Storyteller of Casablanca and five stars from me.
I must admit, I was intrigued by the premise for this book particularly as it was dual timelined which is of course one of my favourite forms of historical fiction. Although I have a couple of Fiona Valpy's books, THE STORYTELLER OF CASABLANCA is actually the first one I've read. It was heartbreaking and compelling at the same time although I did feel it drag a little at times, mostly through Zoe's narrative. I was, however, immediately captivated by Josie's story through her journal and admittedly it was that that kept me turning the pages till the end.
Casablanca, Morocco 1941: When 12 year old (nearly 13) Josie Duval and her family arrive in Casablanca, having fled France when the Germans invade Paris, it is but a stepping stone to their new future that awaits them across the Atlantic in America. For Josie and her sister Annette are half-Jewish as their maman DelphineGuillaume Duval arranges a passage to Casablanca where they will apply for American visas and await their transit to Portugal which would then see their passage to America.
However, Casablanca during wartime wasn't an easy place to live. Upon arrival, the Duvals are taken to a refugee camp before they move to a house in which they will live whilst awaiting their passage to America. Almost at once, Josie falls in love with everything about Casablanca - the sights, the sounds, the food, the people and of course its warm climate. She makes friends with their housekeeper's daughter Nina who is the same age as Josie and the two spend almost every moment together, even visiting the library and pouring over Dorothy L. Sayers books as well as those of Agatha Christie which the two girls devour with relish. After some time, Josie begins to feel so settled there that she begins to dread the moment her papa secures their visas and necessary paperwork to see them across the Atlantic. Maybe it was just as well the whole process was slow and tedious that it seemed like that day would never arrive.
And then strange things begin to occur. Josie began to notice her papa going to many meetings and the stealthy slip of a brown envelope passed to the tutor they hired to maintain her schooling. A couple of family trips seemed a bit out of the ordinary - one to the mountains and the other along the Moroccan coast - whilst they happened across a nasty little man that made Josie especially feel uncomfortable.
Meanwhile, her 17 year old sister Annette had been mourning the fact they had to leave her boyfriend Eduardo and would often break out in floods of tears...in between finding ways to torment her little sister. And then she met Olivier and suddenly Eduardo was forgotten which Josie was at pains to remind her.
But the war was getting closer to Casablanca and time was running out for the Duvals to escape to America before it was too late...
Casablanca 2010: Seventy years later, Zoe and her husband Tom arrive in the Moroccan town for a fresh start. Tom has secured a job in the ports there (though I'm not exactly sure what he did as that was never really outlined) while Zoe struggled to find a way to fill her time in the sprawling and somewhat empty house. Except that she had Grace, her beautiful little daughter. It's clear from the outset that Zoe and Tom's marriage is floundering and neither of them are doing much to find their way back to each other. They are like ships that pass in the night as Tom wakes before Zoe to go for an early morning run, comes home long enough to shower and change before rushing off to work where he often stays late, stopping off for a drink or three afterwards only to return home to a cold dinner and an annoyed wife. But what happened to them to rip their world apart?
Although she and Tom appear to be drifting further and further apart, Zoe meets some other British ex-pat wives who make her feel extremely welcome. Despite her fear of social situations and outings, she meets Kate and May for lunch regularly - the women bonding over Zoe's desire to begin a quilt she wishes to sew by hand as a labour of love.
It's the wee hours of one morning that Josie creeps upstairs to Grace's attic room to watch her daughter sleep that she stumbles over the creaking board under the rug again. She pulls the rug up and attempts to flatten the floorboard but it appears to be buckled and loose. She pulls it up to reveal a leather-bound notebook and small sandalwood box with a pearl lid. She pulls out the items - a Star of David necklace, a scrap of faded blue paper, a feather and a piece of green sea glass - and ponders the significance of these things that were once somebody's treasures. Then she opens the notebook. It's a diary...written by a 12 year old girl called Josiana Duval in the year 1941.
Curled up next to Grace who sleeps soundly on the bed, Zoe steps back in time to a different Casablanca during wartime and begins to see the town through Josie's eyes. It's through Josie that Zoe feels a deep connection to the place and she becomes fascinated with her story and the plight which she and her family had faced. As Zoe is swept up in Josie's story wanting to find out what happened to the family and if they made it to America, Josie's story becomes entwined with her own - tying them together through hope, friendship and grief...but above all, the Moroccan culture of storytelling and dream-sellers welded deep in history.
THE STORYTELLER OF CASABLANCA is indeed a captivating story that will have you absorbed from the beginning. However, the story does dip a little particularly through Zoe's narrative as it was difficult to connect with her. All we seemed to know about her was that she and her husband moved to Casablanca, their marriage was floundering (though we don't know why...yet) and she is obsessed with washing and rewashing her hands to the point they bleed, are dry and scaly from the dermatitis. And yet she continues to do it as she continues to bite at the skin surrounding her nails. The reason for this becomes clear by the end but it did slow the pace somewhat at times. It was Josie's story that is the winner and it was Josie's story that kept me turning the pages...and in the end I'm glad I stuck it out because the ending was worth it.
The story of Casablanca during the war is one that is little known or told. My grandfather fought in North Africa during the war and was one of the rats of Tobruk. And while wartime novels mainly feature Britain or European countries such a Germany, France or Austria, Casablanca or any North African country features very little in wartime fiction. I certainly enjoyed it far more than a previous book set in the same place and it is interesting to note that a number of the characters mentioned and portrayed in the story were in fact real people who featured in the Resistance movement there at the time. Including the famous singer and actress Josephine Baker.
I didn't see the end of the story coming at all though when I think back on it, it makes perfect sense. It is a heartbreaking tale set in frightening and turbulent times that we could only imagine but it is a story that offers hope through adversity and grief.
Beautifully written, THE STORYTELLER OF CASABLANCA is an enchanting and moving tale of two women separated by time each with their own struggles, thus creating something of an interesting perspective that is woven together beautifully by the end.
If you like historical fiction, wartime fiction or dual timelines and you're looking for something a little different, you should definitely check this out.
Top reviews from other countries
This is my second experience of Fiona Valpy's work, having previously read "The Dressmaker's Gift". Overall, I think "The Storyteller of Casablanca" is a slightly better novel, but many of the frustrations that I felt while reading "The Dressmaker's Gift" were again evident in this book.
The story takes place across two timelines: Initially 2010 and then interspersed with flashbacks to 1941/42 via the medium of a young girl's diary. The narrative for the 2010 sections is provided by Zoe, an expat who has relocated to Casablanca with her husband. Hidden away in one of the bedrooms of her new home Zoe finds a diary written by Josie, a 12-year-old (initially) girl who lived in the same property with her family some 70 years earlier. As she reads through the diary Zoe is transported back to world that young Josie inhabited and the challenges that she faced.
Fiona Valpy does a creditable job of evoking the atmosphere of life in Morocco, both in the modern setting, but more especially in the wartime period. Josie's story is one that I found engaging. I was not always convinced that the voice given to her by the author was entirely authentic for a girl of her age, but I was prepared to overlook this on the grounds of artistic licence. I was less enthralled by Zoe's chapters. For the most part - certainly until much later in the novel - these contributed little to the overall development and detracted from the more compelling story of Josie, in a way that disrupted the emotional investment that was being made in the characters from that earlier time. Consequently, there are some potentially heartrending moments that don't achieve the level of impact they should have done. I made a similar observation in my review of "The Dressmaker's Gift". In that book I was also frustrated by the handling of the modern sections of the dual timeframe story and the diminishing effect they had on the impact of the novel as a whole. It is disappointing that the same trait is again evident in the author's work here.
On the whole, this is far from being a bad book, and it is a pleasant enough way to while away a few hours, but I felt it had the potential to be something much better.
The story starts with Zoe, unhappy with her marriage, her expat existence in Casablanca and with life in general. After she finds Josie's journal, the first half of the book is mainly given to the perceptive and detailed observations of this precocious and optimistic 12 year-old Jewish girl, stuck with her family in Casablanca in flight from the Nazis. Zoe makes a few brief appearances, but it's almost as if she is hiding behind Josie. The reader begins to realise that Zoe's unhappiness goes a lot deeper than she admits.
There is a gear change about half way through the book, when Zoe starts to engage with current day refugees, and Josie's journal begins to reflect the fact that the danger for her family is growing. I don't really want to give away any more - this is a well told story that needs to be read.
I have included this far down in my review that it will not be read unless the reader chooses too. Had I known about this trigger I would not have read the book but boy am I glad I did. Part of the book revolves around the death of a baby. I hope if you read this and are not sure you will give it a fair chance. It has helped in a small way and given me a measure of hope and comfort I would never have found otherwise. I hope it does the same for you.
I wept when we finally discover what has happened to both the heroines of the story, but it was a very satisfying story.