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?
The cover does not do justice to the wonderful story held within Valpy’s pages. To say I adored The Storyteller of Casablanca would be an understatement, I adored it, fell in love with its characters, Zoe and Josie, did not want to leave them as I turned the final page.
It was a story of a city at war, of a city in the present day, of its myriad of streets and alley ways, of the rich colour, of it’s culture and heritage. Valpy’s descriptions were off the scale, I wanted to be there, to feel the love that Zoe and Josie felt for it, for the people they encountered and the stories they told.
Most importantly it was the story of two women, women who lived in different times,yet the correlations, the similarities in their emotions bounced off the page. Their residence in the same house, the discovery by Zoe of Josie’s journal an opening to another world.
Zoe, the expat, there to start a new life with her husband and baby, to put the past behind them. Valpy left subtle clues of a trauma, one that didn’t reveal itself until near the end. It shocked and stunned me, but made sense, the pieces of Zoe’s jigsaw finally able to slot in place. Josie’s journal took her away from her own troubles, opened her eyes to a Casablanca far away from the tourist trail. The more she read the more Valpy took Zoe on journey to discover what happened to Josie,
Josie, the refugee, ensconced with her family in a comfortable home, as they awaited documents to flee to a new life in America. Her journal, her voice and outlet for everything that happened, for her thoughts, her emotions had me spellbound. Valpy gave her incredible insight and maturity for one so young, yet there was always the hint of vulnerability and innocence. Her friendship with Nina and Felix was wonderful, but it was her relationship with her Papa I loved most of all. Valpy gave them such a deep and touching connection, as Papa risked his life to assist with the resistance, Josie his unwitting but willing assistant who understood more than her years.
As the risks intensified for Josie Valpy simultaneously increased the self doubt and questioning for Zoe and it felt as if their individual stories would reach a conclusion at the same time. To some extent they did but Valpy don’t let it end there instead the pages that followed were full of emotion, of tenderness, of tears not only from the characters but also this reader.
It was a beautiful heart rending conclusion, full of hope, respect and the prospect of a future even if obstacles stood in the way.
The Storyteller of Casablanca was beautifully written, full of historical detail and wonderful characters, and I do hope Valpy that’s the recognition she so richly deserves for a such a stunning novel.
I would like to thank Amazon Publishing for a copy of The Storyteller of Casablanca to read and review and for inviting My Bookish Blogspot to participate in the blogtour.
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.