It's summer 1918. The First World War is drawing to a close when Leon Le Gall, a French teenager from Cherbourg who has dropped out of school and left home, first meets and falls in love with Louise Janvier. Severely wounded by a German artillery attack, they are separated, both mistakenly believing each other to be dead. Ten years later, while travelling on the Paris Metro, Leon - now married - briefly catches sight of a girl who bears a strong resemblance to Louise, the first love he has never forgotten. He goes in search of her at the insistence of his wife Yvonne. The couple are briefly reunited, but part again with a heavy heart as Louise refuses to destroy Leon's marriage. And then another war tears them apart. Paris is occupied by the Germans, for whom Leon indirectly works at the headquarters of the Paris CID. Louise, an employee of the Banque de France, is shipped off to French West Africa with the bank's gold reserves.
Narrated by Leon's grandson, Leon and Louise is the story of an enduring passion that survives the vicissitudes of world history and the passage of time, spanning more than forty years. But it is far more than this. The long-separated lovers are flesh and blood characters vividly captured in complex human relationships and real-life situations: in German-occupied Paris, where Leon wages a lone battle against the abhorrent tasks imposed on him by the SS and his wife fights stubbornly for her family's survival; and in the wilds of Africa, where Louise confronts the hardships of her primitive environment with courage and humor.
"Leon and Louise is a sweet, warm and compelling love story that opens with the most entertaining and revealing funeral scene that I can recall. The tone is set for a tale that spans much of the 20th Century and chronicles the abiding love of Leon and Louise, who meet as teenagers at the close of WWI. Believing each other dead following an ill-timed bicycle excursion in the French countryside during a battle, Leon and Louise forge ahead with their lives in Paris after the war. They eventually reunite, albeit it with great obstacle to to their being together. The novelist Alex Capus is deft in his skill at bringing not only the characters to life with depth and idiosyncratic personalities, but also France itself, city and countryside, culture and daily life. Leon and Louise is a great gem."