The Naked Heart

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Life in Occupied Europe during World War II was anything but a pleasant experience--most particularly for those civilians caught between the demands of everyday existence and the restrictions imposed by the German authorities. Fortunately, Ann Blakely and Gilberte de Permont have their friendship to sustain them through the increasingly bleak days following the fall of France. Ann, the daughter of American expatriates unable to return to a depression-ridden country, is fascinated by the wit and sophistication of her aristocratic friend and her genteel and gracious parents. For her part, Gilberte is appreciative of the unrestrained friendship and the egalitarian spirit of her talented friend.

Then, without warning, both young women are deprived of their parents and separated physically and emotionally. Gilberte’s parents are arrested, tortured, and killed for participating in the resistance to the Occupation, while Gilberte is subjected to unspeakable horrors. Ann, for her part, is forced to abandon her parents and flee France assisted by Quentin Dejong, Gilberte’s wealthy American cousin. In the intervening period, Ann and Quentin fall deeply in love, and Gilberte seeks refuge in the house and ultimately the bed of a German general. Despite their mutual travail, the two women are sustained by powerful emotions--Ann by her love for Quentin and Gilberte by a desire to extract a full measure of revenge from the informant who was responsible for the indignities inflicted upon her parents and herself.

In the years after the war, however, Ann settles for a friendly marriage to Larry Porter in the belief that Quentin is lost to her forever. At the same time, Gilberte contracts a similar arrangement with Quentin, who is stricken with guilt that he unwittingly consigned the de Permonts to a Gestapo hell. The four are reunited in the United States when Gilberte learns that Ann’s parents informed on her family to escape torture themselves. In pursuit of revenge, Gilberte devises an elaborate scheme which destroys two marriages and bids fair to consume her in a fit of insanity.

THE NAKED HEART is a compelling tale of war, brutality, madness, and unexpected redemption that will grip the reader from the first sentence. Briskin has composed what may prove to be her most powerful work to date.