Bella…A French Life by Marilyn Z. Tomlins

In crime on February 12, 2014 at 9:49 am

The holidaymakers have returned home. And yesterday the wind rose. The holidaymakers going home and the wind rising mean it is the end of summer.

I do not know what I will do to pass the time this winter.

God, I hate winter.

The family to the right set off first. She’s a teacher; he is a doctor. I did not tell them that I too am a physician. At least, I used to be. I would have had to tell them something about myself. Of course, this I would not have wanted to do. They would have asked, “Gave it up?” Whatever I would have replied, would have led to another question. Even to several questions. That dreadful thing that had happened to the Brissard twin would have come back to me. Not that it has ever left me. No, it is with me like an ugly mole on one’s back; you can cover it with a frilly blouse, but sure to God, one knows it is still there.

Du Pont is the family’s surname.

“Easy to remember,” he said.

I am bound to see them again next summer because they have bought the house next door.

“Paid two hundred thousand francs for it,” she boasted.

My parents had bought this house of mine for fifteen thousand francs. The old man from whom they bought it wanted to go into an old-age home. That was in 1947. It is 1986 now.

I was four. Marius, my brother, still had to be born.

Oh dear! I have now revealed my age, and I planned not to mention anyone’s age.

My name is Bella Wolff.


So starts Marilyn’s new book, a novel this time after her true-crime ‘Die in Paris’ about French WW2 serial killer, Dr Marcel Petiot.


What is in a name?

My name is Bella Wolff, the narrator of this novel tells us.

The surname Wolff was not an easy one to bear because Bella was born of a French mother and a German father. So, what is wrong with that you may ask? Plenty. That is, if you were born during the World War Two German occupation of France, because it means that your mother had taken a German lover. A lover from among Hitler’s soldiers: a Wehrmacht soldier.

Children born in such love affairs, like Bella, grew up pariahs in France. At school they, like their fathers, were called ‘dirty Boche’ – Bosch, the derogatory name the French had given Germans already back in World War One.

Bella, blonde and blue-eyed like her father and pretty like her mother, tolerated the insults, and having left her village of Sainte-Marie-sur-Brecque above Saint Michael’s Mount in Normandy, became a doctor, a highly-considered paediatrician in Paris, but there disaster struck. A newborn, one of twins, in her care, died, and the distraught parents charged her with negligence. This tragedy – yes, one can call it a tragedy – sent Bella back to her village where she began to help her widowed mother run the family’s guest house, Le Presbytère.

There, running the guest house on her own after her mother’s death, she not only yet again had to face the shame of being the child of a Wehrmacht soldier and a horizontal collaborator as the French called their female compatriots who had slept with German soldiers, but she also tried to recover from the end of her love affair with a dashing French lawyer, Jean-Louis, a married man alas with two small daughters.

Then, one day, Colin, an English writer comes to stay at the guest house in order to finish a biography he is writing, and … yes … he finds Bella irresistible and she him.

More I will not be reveal to you, but ‘Bella … A French Life’ is a novel of love and loss. Of sex too, because the French will always be French, won’t they?

There is also much eating in the novel, because yes, the French love food just as much as they love making love, so Marilyn’s publisher having asked her to write up the recipes of the dishes she mentions in the novel, ‘Bella … A French Life – The Cookbook’ has been published too.

Both books can be ordered from Amazon in both e-book and paperback editions.

Set in Normandy, France this is a love story, which was born in the tragedy of war. When Bella’s parents fell in love, it was against all the rules, however, rules, as they say, are there to be broken, and in the face of adversity, their love endured.



  1. Lae, I hope that should you buy my novel that you will enjoy it. Lae, thank you for the review. I am honoured to be mentioned on your site.

  2. Apologies Lae, I was addressing your readers in the first sentence.

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