Book review: The Schoolteacher of Saint-Michel

We all enjoyed Sarah Steele’s ‘The schoolteacher of Saint-Michel’ although some felt it was slow to get into. There had been some concerns that the story would be grim but it was very engaging.

The book switches between the current day  – Hannah’ grandmother Gigi, who was brought up in France, has left a note asking her to trace a friend, and we follow her journey – and 1940s occupied France. It brought to the fore the role of the French resistance in helping Jewish children from Paris escape south to Spain and then away to Britain.

The book gave lots of room for speculation – which of the many women involved was actually Gigi? One flaw was that actually Hannah’s father had that information and she could have just asked to see the certificates he held … but that is a minor point and once put aside didn’t spoil the story.

Saint-Michel had a full cast of characters from the collaborators through to those aiding the resistance in many small ways.

The book led us to discussing the importance of communication – Hannah ‘s situation reflects a failure to discuss openly events that have happened in the past in order to share – and how best to share experience so that it doesn’t lead to future problems. Many war time experiences were not shared after WW2.

Recipes and cooking hold an important place in the story and I was left wanting to try many of the mouthwatering cherry recipes … just needed the instructions included in the book.