Let me start off by saying that I’ve previously sworn that I would never read World War II-era historical fiction ever again. NEVER. The problem for me is that there’s just way too much of it out there, perhaps enough to fill a lifetime of reading, and I simply don’t have the time or energy to try and sort out the hidden gems from the cliched monstrosities. That being said, I am apparently a liar, because The Baker’s Secret takes place in a small Normandy town on the eve of D-Day.
All of my complaints about WWII novels aside, this is actually an excellent read. In part because it’s been so long since I’ve read anything like it, but it’s also a well-crafted novel. Kiernan is an excellent writer, and has written characters that are somehow both realistic and compelling, and throughout the book you desperately want to find out what will become of each of them.
Kiernan also doesn’t hold back on tragedy. One of my pet peeves with wartime novels is that too often everything turns out too perfectly. This is not the case in The Baker’s Secret; without giving away the ending, it isn’t perfect (although it is hopeful), and not every character gets a happy ending (and the “bad guys” also don’t all get what’s coming to them).
There’s not much that I have to say against this novel, except that the climax of the story was expected. As soon as the narrator (the lovely and extraordinarily capable Emma) informs us that the date is June 6th, 1944, the tension that had been building dissipates, and the ending can’t come soon enough.
TL;DR: a good read, but NOW I’m officially swearing off WWII novels. Probably.