Le Temps Des Cerises
Zillah Bethell brings events to life in a rollercoaster, almost caricature-like style, rather than a realistic reconstruction of history and hardship, although the details of the setting are keenly researched and acutely dramatised. Her protagonist is Eveline, a young woman longing for action, trapped searching for food for her young brother and alcoholic, maudlin father.
Eveline is engaged to the romantic, letter-writing Laurie, but is increasingly drawn to his friend, the fiery Alphonse, who is involved in intrigues to break the siege. In a beautifully depicted subplot, the nun Bernadine struggles to look after a baby, delivered dramatically and unexpectedly by her friend and fellow nun in the Paris convent, Sister Agnes. Bernadine’s own troubled past haunts her as she bids to save the baby from the horrors of Paris life and makes her own bid for escape as Eveline ‘mans’ the barricades.
Bizarre historical detail such as the theft of the army’s horses and the citizens’ use of men in hot air balloons to send for help, serve to intrigue and authenticate the story. Bethell’s vibrant prose and talent for dramatic imagination make this an evocative and highly enjoyable read.