In every war there are stories that do not surface, that are locked away like bluebottles in drawers and kept silent. You can make yourself forget if you try. But sometimes the past can return: in the smell of carbolic soap, in whispers darting through a village after mass, in the colour of an undelivered letter. Jeanne Nerin and Marie-Angele Baudry grow up side by side in the Catholic village of Ste Madeleine, but their worlds could not be more different. Marie-Angele is the daughter of the grocer, inflated with ideas of her own piety and rightful place in society. Jeanne's mother washes clothes for a living. She used to be a Jew until this became too dangerous. Jeanne does not think twice about stealing food when she is hungry, or about grasping the slender chances life throws at her. Marie-Angele does not grasp; she aspires to a life of comfort and influence.