RATING: VERY GOOD
I am not surprised that the ending is sad. I couldn’t envision a happy ending for Dietrich and Coralie after the war. There were too many obstacles. So when the operation Valkyrie in which Dietrich was involved fails, it means his end. Dietrich finally guesses that the traitor wasn’t Teddy, but her friend Kurt. I was wrong; I thought it was his wife. Apparently, Kurt was initially supportive of a plan to end the Führer’s life, but when he was hurt in an explosion, he changed sides.
When Valkyrie fails, Dietrich tries to get Coralie to Switzerland, and even though she begs him to go with her, he refuses. However, they are stopped before they can get to the station. The Gestapo and Reiniger surprise them, and it is in this moment when the witch’s prediction becomes true, as a look from Dietrich tells Coralie what she has to do. They both lost their cyanide capsules a long time ago, but there is a way she can do what Dietrich silently asks him. She drops onto the chair, buries her head in her knees and while doing so, she takes hold of the gun she had hidden and shoots Dietrich, killing him. That was so, so sad.
Coralie is then sent to a concentration camp where Una is. Coralie is pregnant with Dietrich’s baby, and it is when they are freed and in Sweden that Coralie gives birth to her first son. In the last chapter that takes place in 1961, sixteen years later, Coralie is at the races, in the same place where she met Dietrich. She is married to Donal and they have a big family. Coralie returned to London and opened her hat shop, making a success of it. Even though Coralie seems happy with her new life, I feel that there is regret for what could have been if Dietrich had survived the war. It is sad because the big love story is theirs, and even though I have nothing against Donal, we don’t get the same chemistry and passion from them.
As for the rest of the characters, before Dietrich’s death, Hiltrud had escaped the sanatorium she was locked in. She made her way to Paris, intending revenge on her husband’s mistress. So she used the cyanide capsule she had found in Dietrich’s house and hid it in a cherry. When she got to the hat shop that Coralie owned, she offered the cherry to the blonde woman who she thought was the owner. It wasn’t Coralie, but Lorienne Royer, who was trying to steal some of Coralie’s model with Georges’s help. Then when she left, she ate the cherry, feeling the symptoms instantly, but when she fell before a car who run her over, the police concluded that she had been killed in the impact. At the same time Hiltrud committed suicide by jumping into the Thames.
Other characters die too. Dietrich killed Martel in his cellar, and his head of waiters, Felix, tells Dietrich and Coralie that he will place Martel’s gun next to the body and the police will think he killed himself. Ramon also dies during the war, leaving Coralie a widow.
Apart from these deaths, Una spend most of the time she is imprisoned in a concentration camp, but because of her ex-husband’s connections with Churchill, the German authorities don’t want to create more problems for themselves and move her to more hospitable section of the camp.
We don’t know what happened to Jeanne Thomas, Violaine, Amelie or Julie. I guess the four women died, the first three in concentration camps just because of being Jews, and Julie because of her accusations against Dietrich and Coralie.
Teddy also died after the war, leaving Noëlle a great part of his fortune, so the girl spent her time between her Swiss family, that is, Ottilia and the others, and Coralie in London. We learn that in 1961 Noëlle is 22 and she is studying international relations so that she can become a diplomat.
Also before the end of the war, Coralie learns about her father. He died when a bomb hit his shed, but no other body was found, but a gold chalice that he stole from the church he went to. After the war, Coralie locates her mother who went to live in York when she escaped her husband. Florence had a daughter from a brief affair, and when Coralie finally locates them, Florence has dementia and eventually dies. We don’t get Coralie’s impressions about what her mother did to her, but I think deep down Coralie must have been hurt that her mother left her as a child with a man who she knew was violent. I don’t think Florence was not a good mother, and in her life Coralie did just the opposite. She sent her daughter to safety while she faced the danger of the war and occupation.
I really loved the book and all the characters. Despite the adulterous nature of their relationship, Dietrich and Coralie’s love was described so beautifully, and even though the reader knows that their story can’t end happily, you still enjoy their moments together.