"A beautiful, elegant, poignant, and romantic WWII novel. The author's attention to detail and his poetic literary flair set him apart from others in the genre."
Thrust into circumstances most unusual, five lives are altered by the dichotomy of war. Song of Cigale is a riveting romantic historical fiction of love, loss, fighting for what’s right, and battling just to survive. Frenchman Arthur Lambert and his sister Caroline, German Hanz Lambrecht. American paratrooper Frank Taylor and his brother Michael: all are tied to each other and on opposite sides of World War Two. Each of these characters is beautifully portrayed through descriptive narration and lyrical prose. I connected with each character on an emotional level which heightened my enjoyment of the story.
I’m a voracious historical fiction reader, especially when there’s a little romance thrown in. Song of Cigale is an original story with all the feels. I’ve never read anything like this before. The writing style is both expressive and historical with a bit of fiction thrown in. The interweaving of the main characters is seamless. The plot progression is perfect, with just the right amount of action, tension, romance, and conflict. I found myself reading late into the night because I had to see what would happen next. If you’re a historical fiction reader, you’ll want to read Song of Cigale. If you’re a romantic fiction reader, you’ll adore Song of Cigale. If you love World War Two retellings, pick up Song of Cigale.
Song of Cigale presents the stories of people on both sides of World War II, whose lives are changed by Nazi invasion and calls to battle.
These include two sets of siblings: one in France (brother/sister), and one in America (two brothers) who become entangled in circumstances that lead to a second D-Day in Southern France in August (an event that receives lesser mention in the chronicles of military World War II history compared to the much-covered June D-Day).
Mark Perretta's story opens with this second D-Day and a bang of action in which the main character runs for her very life, fleeing German soldiers who are arriving at her home. These soldiers confront her parents who chose to stay behind to buy more time for their daughter's escape: "'Cours!' her mother cried. 'Run, Caro! Run!' Caroline’s feet pounded the gravel path as she propelled herself into darkness. She was a whirlwind of limb and emotion, her short raven hair bouncing with each hasty stride."
The action-packed opener draws even non-history fans into a story steeped in the heart-stopping threat of Nazi discovery. Four years earlier, the Germans invaded. War entered their lives, and the family began preparing for the inevitable.
Somewhere over France, paratrooper Michael's bomber is going down, in another vivid scene: "The gaping bomb bay door glared back at him with an evil grin. Moments before, the mission had been as normal as any other nighttime jump Michael had made. But the bullets of 20mm flak guns from a German night fighter ambushed their plane, shredding one of Lucky Lady’s wings. Then, one final time, the fighter blasted the coup de grâce. Gas tanks exploded, the B-24’s bomb bay door ripped open, and the remaining wing, upper gun turret, and rear fuselage blazed in flames as the plane screamed toward earth."
Each chapter reveals another life, another vivid circumstance, and the wartime experiences each character shares (albeit from very different vantage points). Perretta creates original, satisfying contrasts in perspective, ideals, and the hell of a war that forces each individual to make impossible decisions.
Readers won't expect romance to evolve under such circumstances of strife, but Perretta's attention to exploring the many different facets of life under siege also embraces the human mind's ability to grasp new possibilities and grow under even the most adverse conditions.
He is especially skilled at juxtaposing the effects of these dilemmas on choices and consequences: "Frank’s mind raced with images of Caro, sunflowers, Germans, and blood. He tried to focus, for soldiers’ lives depended on him. Perhaps, if I refuse to think her name. But that was impossible. Wave after wave of regret washed through his tortured soul."
More so than most World War II stories, the convergence of these very different lives and the moral and ethical conundrums each character must face alone creates a deeper psychological probe of the war's effects on all people.
The novel is replete with a blend of action and psychological inspection that goes beyond capturing historical events to illuminate readers about these changing and challenging times.
The characters are well developed, their different perspectives and experiences are logically and nicely documented, and both history and interpersonal connections come to life.
When will the war really be over? It won't happen when peacetime comes, but when injured hearts settle down and future generations help reconcile past and present. And it won't happen until readers begin to understand how life can go on after losing so many loved ones to fellow man's violence.
As Arthur reflects towards the end of his story: “War is like some swift river, and once you’re caught in its current, you can’t escape. It carries you downstream, and no matter how hard you fight, escape is impossible. When you finally do emerge, if you’re lucky enough, it’s like you’re still…not clean. And definitely not the boy you were when it started.”
Readers of World War II fiction will find in Song of Cigale a powerful, highly recommended story of different kinds of confrontation (both internal and external) and healing processes which hold hope for a better future.