18 February 2021

Guest Review: Lana's War by Anita Abriel

Lana's War by Anita Abriel book cover
* Copy courtesy of Simon & Schuster *


A regular feature here on Carpe Librum this year, Neil Béchervaise has recently read Lana's War by Australian born author Anita Abriel and shares his thoughts on the book below.


From the bestselling author of The Light After the War comes the unforgettable story of a young woman waging her own war against the Nazis as a spy for the Resistance on the French Riviera.

Paris, 1943: Lana Antanova is rushing to tell her husband she is pregnant when she witnesses him being executed by a Gestapo officer for hiding a Jewish girl in a piano. Overcome with grief, Lana loses the baby.

A few months later, a heartbroken Lana is approached to join the Resistance on the French Riviera. As the daughter of a Russian countess, Lana has the perfect background to infiltrate the émigré community of Russian aristocrats who socialise with Nazi officers, including the man who killed her husband.

Lana’s cover story makes her the mistress of a wealthy Swiss playboy, the darkly handsome and charismatic Guy Pascal, and her base his villa in Cap Ferrat. Together they make a ruthlessly effective team. Consumed by her mission, Lana doesn’t count on becoming attached to a young Jewish girl or falling helplessly in love with Guy.

As the Nazis close in, Lana’s desire to protect the ones she loves threatens to put them all at risk.


The return to popularity of wartime experience novels, as evidenced in Tania Blanchard’s facto-fictional Letters from Berlin, Anita Shreve’s Resistance, and Alex Miller’s Max probably signal a generational shift in perceptions of ‘the war’.

Perhaps starting with the fictional ‘biography’ of the fictional author, Helen Demidenko’s (1994) The Hand that Signed the Paper may actually have presaged this new range of wartime experiences with its focus on the roles of women, the conflict between their emotional responses and their physical reactions, their active involvement in resistance and the dangers they faced as they trod their duplicitous paths to saving lives while offering apparent support for the occupying Nazis.

Like Letters from Berlin and Emma Donahue’s Akin, Lana’s War takes the war away from its traditional focus on concentration camp survival and the impact of war in major centres to the decay of the carefree lifestyles of the rich and famous on the French Riviera.

Lana has seen her musician husband killed for attempting to defend a Jewish child from deportation, she has miscarried the baby she was about to tell him about and she is desolate in a Paris where the full brutality of the Nazi occupiers is becoming apparent. Convinced of the potential for saving children’s lives as a member of the resistance, Lana leaves her mother and moves to the Riviera where she will use her Russian nobility and her beauty to access Nazi secrets while living in luxury with the handsome Guy Pascal, a Swiss businessman and resistance leader.

The rest, as they say, is history – more or less. Effectively adopting the Jewish orphan child, Odette, falling in love with Guy and resisting the amorous advances of senior gestapo officers and an ambiguous Briton - who may or may not be a Nazi agent – Lana escapes with Odette to Switzerland because Guy has, inexplicably, disappeared. In Geneva, Lana resumes her Chemistry studies (she has always wanted to become a perfumer) and Odette’s schooling.

Lana’s War is a tough read emotionally. One can’t help but worry for Lana, the orphaned children and the Jews being savagely removed to their deaths as Europe crumbles under the onslaught and then the retreat of Nazism across the early 1940s. 

On the other hand, Abriel’s latest novel is seductively well written and even enjoyable in its compassion. Without detracting from its value and appeal to the adult reader, I suspect Lana’s War would make a useful addition to many senior school English booklists.

You can seize this book at Booktopia.

Neil's Rating:

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