Thursday, January 18, 2024

Book review The Girl from Provence by Helen Fripp

French Village Diaries book review The Girl from Provence Helen Fripp
The Girl from Provence by Helen Fripp

The Girl from Provence: Absolutely gripping and heartbreaking WW2 historical fiction by Helen Fripp


South of France, 1942. Twenty-one-year-old Lilou is selling lavender honey in the village square when the Nazis arrive in her beloved Provence. And when her best friend is dragged away simply for being Jewish, Lilou is horrified. As the village begins to take sides, Lilou secretly swears through angry sobs that she’ll sacrifice everything to fight for what’s right.

Drawn into the French Resistance, soon Lilou is smuggling hidden messages in fresh-baked loaves of bread and meeting Allied pilots in remote moonlit fields. She lives in fear that Kristian, a blue-eyed German soldier, knows about her work – but does he keep her secrets because he is undercover, too?

Everything changes when Lilou is given her most important task: to keep a frightened little boy, Eliot, hidden safe in her farmhouse. All alone in the world, Eliot refuses to speak as he clutches his treasured children’s book close to his chest. Inside is a beautiful story of stars, planets and the night sky. But why is this innocent child the one, among thousands, who Lilou must save?

When she is told Eliot’s book will help her decipher coded messages, Lilou knows he must have knowledge that could change the course of the war. But the day Kristian arrives at her farm searching for hidden Jewish families, Lilou is terrified that Eliot is in more danger than ever…

Can Lilou trust the one person who could tear her world apart? And will she ever help Eliot find his way home?

A totally stunning and heartbreaking read about the incredible sacrifices ordinary people are forced to make each day in wartime. Perfect for fans of Fiona Valpy and Rhys Bowen.

French Village Diaries book review The Girl from Provence Helen Fripp
The Girl from Provence by Helen Fripp


My review 

A book that starts with a scene on a bicycle, whooshing down into a Provence village, on market day, under a perfect blue sky – is a book I knew I was going to love, and I wasn’t wrong.


Lilou Mistral is a gentle soul, more in tune with nature and the seasons than the war and Occupation of German forces in northern France. It’s 1942 and the German’s sudden arrival in her village turned her world on its head. As those around her began to disappear, she pledged her allegiance to the local Resistance, and as strong as the wind that shares her name, she wasn’t afraid of the dangers she must face.


With so many historical novels set during the Occupation period, it was refreshingly different to have one set in the south of France rather than in Paris, but that wasn’t the only feature about this book that set it apart from others I have read. I am a huge fan of stories where characters from the real world appear, and snippets of their lives are woven into the storyline. Imagine my delight to encounter a legendary French aviator/author whose path crossed with Lilou and Eliot in this book, and the important role that was given to his best-known work. This gave a real magic to the storyline, where despite the atrocities Eliot witnessed, the secrets of the stars and the night sky relit his childhood innocence and wonder. The blurring of fact and fiction just added another dimension of intrigue to this book. I was gripped, but it was also brutally emotional too. 

Who can Lilou trust at a time when friends become enemies and the enemy isn’t always who they seem to be. As the net closed in on the Resistance cell, the heart stopping moments came in thick and fast and kept me turning the pages late into the night, hoping against hope.


I enjoyed the previous novels by Helen Fripp, The French House, set on wine domaine in the Champagne region of France, and The Painter’s Girl, set in 19th century Paris, but I think the magic woven into The Girl from Provence tops them both. She really drew me into the period, the setting, and the lives and feelings of her characters. If you enjoy historical fiction, please add this to your 2024 ‘must read’ lists – it’s one of those books that will stay with me for a long time.

French Village Diaries book review The Girl from Provence Helen Fripp
The Girl from Provence by Helen Fripp


Purchase links

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French Village Diaries book review The Girl from Provence Helen Fripp
Helen Fripp


About the author


I love delving into the past and uncovering new stories, and in my writing, the tiniest historical detail can spark an idea for a whole chapter. My female characters rail against the social constraints to which they are subject and often achieve great success, but they are of course flawed and human, like the rest of us. It’s the motivations, flaws, loves and every-day lives of my characters that I love to bring life, against sweeping historical backdrops - and I will find any excuse to take off and research a captivating location or person for my next story.


My first novel is set in the Champagne region in France, and I’m currently working on my next one, set in late eighteenth century Paris. I spent a lot of time in France as a child, have lived in Paris and spent a year with my family in a fishing village in South West France, so that’s where my books have ended up being set so far. Who knows where next!


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You can read my reviews for Helen’s previous novels here:

The French House

The Painter’s Girl 

French-themed reading bingo

This year I’ve set myself a reading challenge bingo, with twenty-five different types of French themed books to tick off. I can now tick off “A book set during The Occupation”.

French Village Diaries book review The Girl from Provence Helen Fripp
French-themed reading bingo 2024

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