Perfectly Ordinary People

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Pub Date 26 Jul 2022 | Archive Date 9 Aug 2022

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In occupied France, two people sacrificed everything. Now their granddaughter has come looking for the truth…

Ruth’s childhood was a happy one, and her family—on her mother’s side—large and loving. But her father’s French origins have always remained a mystery. Now, with aged relatives beginning to die, Ruth decides to research her father’s family before it’s too late.

When she discovers a series of long-lost cassettes, everything she thought she knew about them shatters. The tapes expose an unimaginable truth – an epic wartime story of hidden love and sacrifice, stretching back to occupied France.

These long-buried confessions will rock Ruth’s family—and finally piece together the puzzle of her father’s heritage. But are any of them ready for the truth?

In occupied France, two people sacrificed everything. Now their granddaughter has come looking for the truth…

Ruth’s childhood was a happy one, and her family—on her mother’s side—large and loving...

A Note From the Publisher

Nick Alexander was born in 1964 in the UK. He has travelled widely and has lived and worked both in the UK, the USA and France, where he resides today. Perfectly Ordinary People is his seventeenth novel. Nick is the author of multiple international bestsellers, including Things We Never Said, The Photographer’s Wife and The Other Son. Nick’s novels have been translated into French, German, Italian, Spanish, Norwegian, Turkish, Croatian and Estonian. Nick lives in the southern French Alps with his partner, four cats and three trout.

Nick Alexander was born in 1964 in the UK. He has travelled widely and has lived and worked both in the UK, the USA and France, where he resides today. Perfectly Ordinary People is his seventeenth...

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ISBN 9781542032476
PRICE £8.99 (GBP)

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Average rating from 42 members

Featured Reviews

Thank you NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK for the eARC.
What a lovely book this is, again; Nick Alexander is a wonderful writer, I absolutely love this author.
Ruth is trying to find out more about her father's family history and what she finds is shocking, sad, and at the same time becomes a wonderful and enlightening part of the family's life.
The parts taking place during WWII are horrifying and beyond belief: the extreme cruelty is overwhelming. The difficulties of staying alive are almost insurmountable for many, especially if you're Jewish, gay, a communist, Romany...unless you're blond and blue-eyed you're a target.
This is a must-read that will stay with you for a long time. Highly recommended!

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Wow, loved it!

In occupied France best friends Pierre and Genevieve find themselves facing uncertainty and danger leaving them no option but to sacrifice everything to keep themselves and others safe.

With a large, boisterous, and close Irish family on her mother’s side, Ruth is aware that she doesn’t know much about her paternal grandparents. With her dad reluctant to talk about them, Ruth is even more curious and sets out to learn more, but can Ruth’s family cope with the secrets she uncovers?

Oh my goodness this is a rollercoaster! Never having read this author before, I wasn’t sure what to expect and the first chapter had me chuckling to myself over their big family Christmas as I was lulled gently into the story. But this is a book of contrasts and suddenly I was propelled back in time to France and all the angst, pain and heartache that those families faced under German occupation.

Interspersed with Ruth’s search for answers, Pierre’s and Genevieve’s story is told through a series of emotional interviews for a magazine some years later. I thought this worked brilliantly. It is a hard read at times and painfully detailed in places but I thought necessarily so to understand the characters, and the harrowing ordeals they experienced.

I liked all the main characters immensely, especially Ruth’s dad - a man of few words, misunderstood at times, by even himself - and his relationship with his daughter felt real and familiar, and I just wanted to give him a hug towards the end!

This is just the kind of book I love - contemporary mixed with some history, emotional with some real heartache moments, but with little bits of humour every now and then to lighten the mood. And of course with relatable characters about - well - perfectly ordinary people.

I gave this book 5 stars ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for providing this advance copy in exchange for an honest review
Note - There are a few possible triggers in this book including anti-Semitism and homophobia. There are also references to suicide and drug-taking.

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I was lucky enough to get an advance copy of Nick’s latest book, and what a gift it was. Nicks books are always captivating, with well crafted characters, and a storyline that has you hooked from the beginning. This book was no exception. It has historical content that was hard to read, the descriptions of how gays and Jewish people in particular were treated in the war was incredibly harrowing,, but was necessary to ensure the history of the characters was truthfully told.. I devoured this book in three sittings, once again, Nick has written a wonderful , thought provoking book that deserves to be on every bestsellers list in 2022 and beyond.

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A novel of two halves, connected by one family. In the present time it is Ruth who is perplexed that she knows virtually nothing about her father’s family and how they came to England from France at the end of WW2. Delving back into the war raging in Europe we have the back story from Ruth’s aunt Genevieve’s recorded interview of the harrowing story of her escape from Mulhouse, in Alsace France, fleeing the Germans with her childhood friend Pierre and someone else’s baby. Against all odds the trio stay together and survive the war, protecting themselves by changing their names.

Ruth slowly, through the interview tapes, unravels her family’s past. Breaking the news she has uncovered to her father, that he is not who he thought he was, nor were the relationships between his peer generation, results in a major family rift. Sadly this takes time before the wounds are healed. It’s a fascinating, at times heartbreaking, story of survival not just during the war, but in the current time, of family unity and relationships.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers Lake Union for this advance copy.

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This is my first time reading anything from this author, but I will absolutely be going back for more! I read a ton of historical fiction and never have a read about the LGBTQIA experiences during ww2. The format felt a bit clunky at the beginning, but once I got used to it, I could not put this book down. I will absolutely tell everyone I know about this extraordinary story!

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A really enjoyable read that deals with family history and dynamics. It is a daul timeline of present day and World War Two. This was a compelling read that I couldn't put down. You should definitely read this book.

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I was drawn to this book as I am dropbox set in WWII however, I have never read about the LGBTQIA experiences during ww2. The historical content is hard to read, the descriptions of how gays and Jewish people in particular, were treated in the war was incredibly harrowing. However, this is a must-read that will stay with you for a long time. Highly recommended!

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The title might be “Perfectly Ordinary People”, but this book is a far cry from ordinary. It raised in me a tsunami of emotions.

Ruth comes from a big boisterous loving home. However, whilst her mum’s relatives attend every party going, her dad’s side is a bit of an enigma to her. When her paternal grandmother dies, Ruth decides to take matters into her own hands and find out why her grandparents were estranged. But what she uncovers will send shockwaves through the whole family.

Pierre’s and Genevieve’s part of the story is set in France during the second world war. The author has written an extremely honest and moving account of how they were treated at the hands of the Nazis. At times this made for an uncomfortable, chilling and heartbreaking reading due to the persecution and atrocities that they were subjected to.

Every chapter left its mark on me. Nick’s writing took me to the edge one minute with all the tragedy and heartache but then pulled me back with wonderful comedy moments. And, always simmering away, is the greatest love story just waiting to be told.

Nick Alexander’s sympathy and respect for his characters shine through every page making this book feel like a true labour of love.

I have read all of this author's books, but this epic tale of love and war is far and away his best yet.

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I wasn't sure when I started this book, but I am glad I kept going as it really drew me in. Such a harrowing, but ultimately affirming story of a family surviving the War and the legacy of what happened. Very much enjoyed.

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I read this novel in advance of publication through NetGalley in return for an honest review.

Having read all Nick Alexander’s previous novels, I found this one difficult to enjoy and, at times, read. The opening sentence is brilliant. And the subject is important and horrifying. But –

The story is told in two ways. By Ruth, who introduces many of the characters. And by a prolonged interview recorded in 1986 between a woman called Genevieve and interviewer for French gay magazine Gai Pied.

The latter is the important part of the story, about the Nazi’s treatment of Jews and homosexuals. Slanted towards the gay angle, which is not so widely known, it is based in part of the real-life testimony of Pierre Seel, the only French homosexual to have testified about his experiences of deportation.

One can’t argue with the quality of Alexander’s writing, nor the research that has been done. It is obviously something he feels passionate about. But, and here comes that but. Because the most important, devastating part of the story is told through this prolonged interview, one woman relating what happened decades in the past, and about other people, often things she has been told rather than seen for herself, it loses impact. As the reader you are removed from the action by filtering (and the interviewer’s rather inane comments) and being told what happened rather than shown. For me that was a mistake. This story is something you want to see and feel first hand, not something to be dulled and diluted.

I hope this novel will be a success, but it could have had so much more impact. And, with such an important story to tell, that is a shame.

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Ruth has a relatively happy childhood with her brother but then one family Christmas things are thrown into the air and a family divide begins when her Father makes some antisemitic comments. This opens a whole can of worms when Ruth realises that she really hardly knows anything about her grandparents on her fathers side. Further investigations lead her to some tape recordings of an interview with her grandmother which tell a tragic story of love and torture under Nazi occupation.
The story flits from present day relationships within the family and between Ruth and her new boyfriend Dan to the recorded story during the second world war. I read this book over three nights, not being able to keep away from knowing what happens next.. I really have to say that Nick Alexander has done it again and never disappoints. The characters were fantastically drafted and I was able to feel empathy with all of them. Nick has obviously done his historical research. Even though we know of these horrific war crimes the story is still shocking and definitely tugs at the heart strings. We are rooting for Pierre and Genevieve all the way. I don't want to say too much to give away the plot so I would HIGHLY recommend reading this for yourself. I can't remember the last time I cried reading a book but luckily my kindle is water proof. .Thank you Nick for what is another fantastic ride of emotions! If anyone is pondering purchasing this book stop pondering right now and add to basket!!!!

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Thanks to #NetGalley for an advance copy of #PerfectlyOrdinaryPeople. This book was an emotional rollercoaster. Following a family discovering their heritage and discovering too late that you can't discover who your grandparents are after they're gone.
During the reading of this I did feel that it was a bit long, however it didn't take from the story. It did have some descriptive incidents that occurred during WWII which could be upsetting. Overall it is a book that I'm glad to have read, to learn more regarding WWII and to remind us to treasure what we have while we have it.

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Fans of The Huntress, The Nightingale, and historical fiction in general will love this novel. It focuses on the stories and lives of gay people during WWII, and the horrific things they experienced and faced, because of their sexuality.

Genevieve and Pierre are best friends in grade school. When Ethel comes along, they draw her into their circle and the three of them form a fast friendship.

Fast forward a few years, and WWII is on the horizon. The Germans have invaded France and people are being deported, killed, and arrested for anything and everything. No one is safe and everyone is suspicious of their neighbors.

The story is told from two time periods, and two separate story lines. Present day introduces us to Ruth and Jake, siblings in a close knit, boisterous family. Ruth starts to wonder why they are so close to her mother's family but know next to nothing about her father's.

As she starts digging, she uncovers family secrets and a past that will change everything.

I really enjoyed this novel and that it addressed the treatment of gay people during the war, I had never read anything that even mentioned that before, and I have read a lot of books from WWII. I gave the book 4⭐ because I found Ruth's story to be slightly distracting at times and less interesting than the other point of view. (Although I did enjoy getting to know Ruth!)

Thanks to netgalley for an advanced review copy.

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This 'dual time' story of Ruth, a woman in her thirties and her discoveries about her grandparents and what they went through in WWII because of their sexual orientation could have been compelling, but it was anything but. It was strangely and not very effectively structured but the primary problem was that the two main characters, Ruth and Grandma Genny, told their stories at a remove, and in 'voices' that were adolescent (and very similar!) and thus very irritating as well as unbelievable. I felt no emotional connection to either of them because of this, in spite of the horrific situations the grandparents had suffered and Ruth discovered. The only characters in the entire cast I found realistic were Ruth's father and mother; at least they showed some character and did not speak in facile, adolescent voices. Through the whole book I assumed that this must be a debut novel by a writer who did not get a manuscript assessment or any editorial input. In addition I did wonder if the unrealistic 'voices of the two main female characters were a result of the male author's inexperience with projecting female voices on the page. The reporter who interviewed Grandma Genny was also facile. So I was shocked when I got to the end of the book (hoping it might get better!) and discovered the author was a writer who had written numerous previous novels and for a publishing house!! It seemed that he had a good idea for a novel based on a historical situation but then just wrote it without any editorial input, perhaps because he was a seasoned writer. I would not have written such a review if this had been a debut writer, as we all have to learn (and keep on learning) but as this author is so well-known, I am sure the occasional poor review won't matter to him, and it might be helpful for other readers. My rating of 2 (or 2.5) reflects my belief that seasoned writers and big publishing houses should be more selective re the quality of the books they publish, however well-known the author is.

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A thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish. I particularly enjoyed the parts told as interview cassettes from 1986 and found the memories very touching. A lovely, poignant story.

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Just when I thought there were no new WWII stories to tell….
This is a dual timeline novel. In the present, Ruth’s paternal grandmother dies, leading her to realize that while she knows a lot about her maternal Irish relatives, she knows next to nothing about her paternal relatives. She sets out to remedy that and learns about them through audio tapes of an interview given by her aunt Genevieve numerous years ago. Genevieve tells the story of her friend Pierre and what they endured in occupied France during WWII, and how they escaped with a baby in tow. While I have read plenty of novels set during WWII, I don’t recall ever reading about the Nazi’s treatment of homosexuals. The harrowing story of the past is thankfully lightened somewhat by the levity of some current day moments, but it is still a tough, but important, read.

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Nick Alexander does it again, this time with a history lesson. I always enjoy his stories. This one had some pretty heavy, eye-opening social lessons but was still a page-turner and it all came together in the end.

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Informative, well-written tale of beating the odds to survive👥👶👥

I picked this novel because I had had a great reading experience with a Nick Alexander story in the past. Not a shadow of disappoint in my choice: this book brought all the emotion while educating me about the little discussed brutal persecution of homosexuals as the Nazis rolled into France. The story unfolds in alternating time periods and perspectives, told on one hand through a taped interview in 1986 with Genevieve Schmitt, a lesbian survivor of WWII, and on the other by her granddaughter Ruth, totally unsuspecting of the family drama until after her grandmother's death.

The wartime story was the heart and bulk of the book for me. So much fear, uprooting, living in uneasy hardship and knowing or at least suspecting that despite their privations others had it much worse and many were lost to them forever. But even after the war is over and the Nazis defeated, Genevieve and her nearest and dearest are not safe unless they do their utmost to blend in and act like perfectly ordinary people to escape prejudice and prosecution for being gay. There are bright spots to temper the heavy content, but mostly this is a tale of two determined young people fighting for themselves and a child to survive and overcome their loss. Ruth's father William is a key character in both lines of the narrative and, though he often comes across as a rude, prejudiced man, eventually Alexander reveals William as a man betrayed by the very people he loved and trusted as they kept their secrets and true selves from him throughout their lives.

It's a fascinating story and I could not recommend it more highly.

Thanks to Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for sharing a complimentary advance copy of the book; this is my voluntary and honest opinion.

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The story
Ruth works in publishing and lives in London. When she meets Dan, she starts to realise that she really doesn’t know much about her father’s side of the family. Her grandmother has died recently and they were never close. The gift of a set of cassette tapes from her gran’s cousin Ethel sent after her death opens up a heartrending story about the complicated relationship between Genny, Ethel and Pierre, and her own family history.

My thoughts
This story gave me the biggest lump in my throat and tears in my eyes. It’s beautiful, sad, hard to read and hits all the feels. I know from personal experience that family secrets are hard to deal with, and super hard to deal with when they challenge your own identity. I liked that the historical parts were balanced with Ruth’s own life and the ordinariness of it all. A super read ❤️

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The jump between now and then was sharp, too long between then and now making it hard for me to keep. It was interesting to read about another experience of WWII. It seemed to me that there were two completely different storylines, which it transpired there was, and I only got the connection at about the 45% mark. As soon as I got it, I really enjoyed the story.

Ruth has a bunch of cassettes which reveal an incredible WWII story with a close connection to her own family.

Rating 4.5 rounded up.

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This book really surprised me. I thought it was going to be a “perfectly ordinary “ book about family relationships and the ups and downs of family life. In very many ways it is indeed that but oh it is so much more beside.
It is an eye opener, a history lesson, a glimpse into a past I was unaware existed all wrapped around the story of the two main female characters.
Their voices come over to the reader, Ruth in the present and Genny in the past and we share their feelings and hopes. We hear about the early life of Ruth’s grandparents before she does and so we can anticipate and watch as it is gradually revealed to her.
A great read that kept me fully engaged. Some parts are hard to read as there is heartache and wicked deeds but it’s a story that needed telling.

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I’d like to thank Amazon Publishing UK and NetGalley for giving me the opportunity to read ‘Perfectly Ordinary People’ by Nick Alexander in exchange for my honest and unbiased review.

During the annual celebratory Christmas dinner when bad cooking and old stories are the norm, Ruth realises that although herself and her brother Jake have always had contact with their mother’s side of the family, they’ve never known much about their father’s and when Ruth meets Dan she plans to correct this and learn of her family’s history.

The story of ‘Perfectly Ordinary People’ is told by Ruth as she listens to an interview recorded on six cassette tapes by Genevieve, her Grandma Genny, that have been given to her after Grandma Genny’s passing by cousin Ethel. They tell of the friendship between Genevieve, Pierre and later Ethel, the invasion of France in WWII and how they survived, and gives Ruth a greater understanding of the secrets her father kept of the experiences he went through. The story is beautifully-written with sensitivity and empathy, and I liked Ruth’s manner of speaking that I found easy and enjoyable to read though the subject matter was often difficult to take in. It’s a story that’s important to read to remind us of how people survived through tough times in Occupied France.

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I was drawn into this story almost immediately. What a great depiction of family secrets and struggles, intrigue and persecution and finally heartfelt understanding. I had some basic understanding of the persecution of LGBTQ people by the Nazis but this heartfelt story broadened my understanding. I think the author did an excellent job of portraying the effects of generational trauma. Thanks #NickAlexander #AmazonUK and #NetGalley for the opportunity to read this book.

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Ruth's father has always been quiet about his side of the family, but she never questioned it until now. As her story unfolds, it is interrupted by another: that of Genevieve Schmitt, who is being interviewed in great, great detail, by a magazine reporter. Genevieve tells us the story of her life, and it turns out to relate to Ruth's. Unfortunately, the structure of this novel isn't great. Genevieve tells her story in what feels like an infodump. By the end of her first segment, I had almost forgotten who Ruth was. Then, getting back up to speed in Ruth's present-day life, I was once again back in Genevieve's retelling of hers. No matter how good the story, this way of telling it hamstrung the novel, and I confess I couldn't finish it. I love this author's other works. I was rapt over "You Then, Me Now," "The Other Son," and "From Something Old." I recommend those.

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Ruth is from a loving family, each side is very distinctive and one hold a mystery. Her mother’s side is a large and outgoing Irish family. Her father side is very mysterious with a French background. Ruth starts to become curious about her father’s side of the family. He isn’t giving her much information and she is frustrated by it. She is now determined to discover her French roots. What Ruth discovers are secrets that has been kept hidden from outsiders. Her relatives that survived during the Occupation in France during World War Two. They survived by all means necessary and some of those options were not pretty. Will Ruth’s discovery tear her family?
An emotional charged story that is set during WWII.

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley and Lake Union Publishing for this ARC, I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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Another amazing read by this fabulous author! Ruth is trying to find out more about her father's family history and what she finds is shocking, sad, and at the same time becomes a wonderful and enlightening part of the family's life.
The parts taking place during WWII are horrifying and beyond belief: the extreme cruelty is overwhelming.……well worth reading! ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

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I do love a dual timeline book when done well... as indeed it was with this book. In the present, we follow Ruth who has a pretty large family, mostly on her mother's Irish side. Her father's parents have both died and she is left wondering about the gap they could have filled in her ancestry. Her father sadly is reluctant to talk about them so she has to let it go. Until a friend of her paternal grandmother's gets in touch with her father and, as he is reluctant to call her back, Ruth takes up that particular mantle... but whether she is prepared for what she finds is another question...
And then, back in the past, in the war years, we follow best friends Pierre and Genevieve as they sacrifice everything to survive.
And that's all I'm saying as you really need to discover all the delights of this book as the author intends. Suffice to say, I thought I knew a lot about the war but this side of things, well, I had an inkling but wasn't aware of the full details. The author has obviously put in the hard yards with his research and, happily for me, left me with a list of "further reading". Which I will do...
The story is a wonderful and harrowing one - the past timeline I mean. Back in the present, life is a bit lighter and has some great funny moments, as well as a few cringes. This means that however awful the war years, the book never became overwhelmingly depressing.
It's evident where the book is going, mostly but not all. There are delights to be found all along the way as certain things become aha moments. Although I guessed a few of the secrets, the fallout was always still an unknown all the way through... And the ending when it came... perfect.
And the title is perfect too. As the characters contained herein are just that. And all so well described and all played their parts well. This is always one of the author's strengths, as well as spinning a great yarn. Couple those with the no nonsense attitude to waffle and padding - there is none - and you got a cracking read that I have no hesitation in recommending.
My thanks go to the Publisher and Netgalley for the chance to read this book.

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Ruth's relationship with her mother's family has always been very close. She can't remember a single day in her childhood or adolescence when she wasn't surrounded by aunts, uncles, cousins and her grandmother. They are very affectionate and effusive. They don't ask permission, they don't ask when they can visit, they come at any time and stay.

The opposite is true for his father. He is an only child and has hardly any relationship with his parents. Ruth does not know when or why they grew apart and she has only a few memories of her grandfather and almost none of her grandmother. It has always been like that.

But one day Ruth began to ask herself questions about her roots, about who her grandparents had been. Although it was too late to maintain a relationship with them, she wanted to know what they had been like, to get to know them. Perhaps she could also get to know her father better, whose attitudes she didn't understand.

Perfectly Ordinary People takes place in two time periods: London in the present day and France before and during World War II.

Ruth is a girl who leads a simple life like any other girl her age in London. One day she meets someone who unintentionally makes her rethink many things in her life. Things she had never thought about before or took for granted. And from that moment on her life takes a radical turn.

In France, shortly before World War II, we meet the other two protagonists of this wonderful story. Two young, inseparable friends who soon realized how complicated their lives would be. They had to live in a time of hatred, resentment and lack of love. Even so, they did not give up. They learned to make the best of every obstacle and every adverse circumstance to live as they wished and not as society wanted to impose on them.

If there is something I really like about this author, it is the way he deals with interpersonal relationships. Especially how well he deals with the complexity of relationships between parents and children, a recurring theme in his books and that this time he does it again in a masterful way and in a very different context that I think is little exploited in literature.

There are many books I have read set in the historical context of World War II, but this is the first one that deals with this subject and so well done. With abundant details and accurate descriptions not only of places and people but also of emotions and feelings. More than just reading it, one has the feeling of living what is happening with the protagonists.

Perfectly Ordinary People is a complex story, with a great variety of characters, situations and jumps in time. But it is so well written that they do not disturb or interrupt the pace of reading, on the contrary, it encourages you to read faster to see what will happen next.

It has beautiful moments and others that are tremendously sad and emotional. Perfectly Ordinary People is written in a light, simple tone, and even with a bit of humor. The great work of documentation done by the author is noticeable. He has managed to convey a difficult and rarely told story in the most beautiful and unforgettable way possible.

I think it is a nice and well-deserved tribute to all the people the history books don't mention who suffered so much because of their sexual orientation during World War II.

Perfectly Ordinary People is an exceptional and highly recommended book that will appeal to every type of reader.

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Perfectly Ordinary People by Nick Alexander is a powerful story of family that moves between the second world war and the almost current day.
Ruth has grown up in a happy family, surrounded by uncles, aunts and cousins from her mother's side, not to mention tough matriarch Mavaughn, her Irish grandmother. Her father's side of the family is more of a mystery however, he was born in France but moved to England as a child, and rarely speaks of his past or his family. It is only when his mother, Ruth's Grandma Genny dies, that Ruth finds herself wishing that she knew more of the family history, and so she embarks on a quest to discover more about that side of the family.
The second story woven into the book is set in France, during the period of German occupation, and focuses on Genevieve and Pierre. Using these characters the author explores the history of what happened to Gay people during the war, and it often makes for tough reading with brutal descriptions of torture, beatings and assault. When Pierre is arrested Genevieve takes part in a daring subterfuge to rescue him and the pair flee the occupied zone. We learn about their story in the form of an interview for a French magazine, recorded in the 1980s. and it is the discovery of these recordings that gives Ruth the answers to questions about her paternal family. While the connection between both storylines might seem too obvious, I really did not mind as I was engaged and enjoying both plots. The humour and warmth of family so often described in Ruth's timeline was a much needed respite and a stark contrast to the harsher wartime story. The characters are really believable and easy to relate to, even when they are not always likeable, they really are perfectly ordinary people, and all the more interesting for it.
I read and reviewed an ARC courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher , all opinions are my own.

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A fabulous read and I'm so glad I had the opportunity to read it. This book held my attention throughout. I loved the dual timeline and I thought it was very well done. I felt all the characters were authentic. It was a hard read at times in terms of learning of the harrowing ordeal some of the characters went through in the hands of German soldiers. It's obvious how much research the author undertook. With thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

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I can’t put into words the emotions this book made me feel throughout.

I’ve always been interested in the Second World War. I’ve never once thought about how gay people where treated. I’ve obviously taken it for granted that love is love.

Perfectly Ordinary People, broke my heart.

More books like this need to be written.

Another masterpiece by Nick.

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This book was an interesting twist on the usual WWII dual-timeline story. That being said, a few things didn't sit well with me.

While I understand the point of this book was to bring to light the plight of LGTBQ+ community experiences in Europe during the war, a few sections glossed over details about Genny and Pierre (Chris) that would have given more depth to the story. In all the time they spent in the "cabin' in the woods, the years were just glossed over. Their struggle during the winters to survive, having the Pilot show up was really the only thing that happened to them during those years. Then boom - war is over and they can make their way home.

Also, the dual timelines were interesting to a point, but why such a long time lag? Why does Ruth's story jump about five years towards the end of the book? So much detail at the beginning with her meeting Dan, then all of a sudden time jumps past and now they have a child together and are a family.

I appreciated the novelty of the interview tapes, but again - so much time passes from their introduction to the story to Bill's trip to visit Igor. Seemed like so much wasted time. I understand that Bill had to come to terms with everything but for me - reading this - just felt very long and unnecessary.

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Before the two timelines/points of view began to merge together, this almost felt like two books in one, historical fiction and a more contemporary family drama. I was definitely more interested in Genevieve's chapters and felt myself wanting to get back into them each time we were back with Ruth. I felt like Ruth's chapters dragged a bit, and I didn't really care about her relationship issues and everything. In fact, if the book had just been focused solely on Genevieve, I would have given this 5 stars.

I enjoyed the interview aspect of this book and felt like it was the perfect medium to capture Genevieve's entire life story. While it was fictional, I learned so much about both France in World War II and what life was like for gay people back then that I hadn't previously known. It was both fascinating and horrifying, and Genevieve's story gripped me from beginning to end.

Be aware that this book covers some heavy topics like suicide and sexual assault, but most of it is just mentioned in passing and not graphic or anything. This is a definite recommend though if you like books that feature incredible love stories and long-kept family secrets.

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What an enthralling and engrossing story. I enjoyed every single minute of this novel. The author has captured the very essence of this era. The story is really fast-paced and kept me turning the pages well into the night. The characters came across as very real in the telling and the historical aspects of this novel have been very well researched, although be warned, there are aspects of this story that are truly harrowing.

This novel is a must-read for those who love quality historical fiction set during World War Two. I highly recommend it.

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What a great book that held my attention right to the end. The historical information on same sex relationships was difficult to accept and much of how the Jews were treated, I was familiar with but it still seems hard to understand such behaviour. The characters were well portrayed which is typical of the author. The novel is set in present time and Ruth, through interview tapes unravels her family’s past which explains how various relationships were influenced. Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy.
This really deserves 5 stars.

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Book really really recommended.
The structure of this book is an alternation of past and present: in the present Ruth and her story, in the past the Genevieve interview to a gay french journal.
When Ruth’s paternal grandmother dies, she realizes a sense of void for having missed the occasion to know more about her, so she tries talking to her grandfather or her grandmother’s cousin but… she does not manage to get to meet them in time or to talk to them properly.
Meanwhile her life continues, she finds love and her family encounters a huge misunderstanding.
At a certain point she manages to talk to her grandmother’s cousin, Ethel, who sends to her a package with 6 cassettes: it’s an interview in french.
In the book there is, since the beginning, this contrast between Ruth’s life who has no great problems to deal with, and Genevieve who tells in the interview her story when she was a teenager: a gay girl with gay friends right before, in the middle and after the Fascist regime.
Genieve interview is very very special (pay attention there are some really cruel descriptions) because it made me think how precious are these memories about what happened; this book is fiction but Pierre/Christophe character is inspired by a person who really went to the camps because gay.
I really appreciated the book. Because of the memory, and also because of the contrast with a “relaxed” life: I think we, now, owe a lot of people for this relaxed life.
I will read the book Nick suggested at the end.

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Another wonderful read from Nick Alexander. I got totally immersed in this story especially the parts from the Second World War which were absolutely riveting being in contrast to the more modern story with which it was interwoven. Powerful, realistic, yet homely and totally honest. It makes the reader think about possible hidden histories within their own families whilst also being a bit of an history lesson. I have to say I did find the past story from the war more interesting and couldn't wait to return to these sections. A definite yes.

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A quick and easy read that I found myself picking up after a long day to unwind. The characters are beautifully written and I came to love them within the first few pages and was rooting for them all the way to the end. At times I wanted to stop reading because I just wanted the experience to go on for longer.

Thanks to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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Absolutely wonderful book. It was truly harrowing, the plight of gay people during WWII was the focus, I don't think many people realise the amount of persecution they were subject to. A story told before and during the war when the Nazis occupied France and in the present day when many family members had relocated to Britain.
Just brilliant, Nick writes character driven novels so well.

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This was a great read by Nick Alexander. It's set in 2 time zones and it needed a little concentration until I got into it. Then it was impossible to put down. Set in war times and full of mystery and love. Excellent as always from one of my favourite authors.
It is compassionate and although it is in fact not a true story, it could easily be so.

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Perfectly Ordinary People is a well written novel set in the 90's about a woman who discovers more about her paternal grandparents via an interview with her grandmother set in the 80's, which delves into her grandmother's experiences during WWII.

I found the framing device of the interview the most interesting part of this novel, and would have preferred to solely spend time with Genevieve. I thought she was a very interesting character, while the main character of Ruth was a bit of a bore. Ruth seems to just let things happen to her, and the musings on whether to move in with her (frankly terrible) boyfriend were not very investing in comparison to the story being told by her grandmother. Her parents are also pretty terrible, and it's hard to understand how a family could talk so little to each other based on the mass amounts of time they spent together.

I found the story very interesting overall and I did enjoy it, but it drags a bit in some spots. I also think Ruth's father gets off way too easy for being an anti-Semitic homophobe. It's funny to me that he was raised by such a progressive woman and yet none of it seemed to rub off on him.

Ultimately, I think I would have preferred spending more time with Genevieve and getting to know Pierre, but I enjoyed it quite a bit.

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