The Storyteller of Casablanca

This title was previously available on NetGalley and is now archived.

Buy this Book on

You must sign in to see if this title is available for request.
Pub Date 21 Sep 2021 | Archive Date 05 Oct 2021

Talking about this book? Use #TheStorytellerofCasablanca #NetGalley. More hashtag tips!


In this evocative tale from the bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Gift, a strange new city offers a young girl hope. Can it also offer a lost soul a second chance?

Morocco, 1941. With France having fallen to Nazi occupation, twelve-year-old Josie has fled with her family to Casablanca, where they await safe passage to America. Life here is as intense as the sun, every sight, smell and sound overwhelming to the senses in a city filled with extraordinary characters. It’s a world away from the trouble back home—and Josie loves it.

Seventy years later, another new arrival in the intoxicating port city, Zoe, is struggling—with her marriage, her baby daughter and her new life as an expat in an unfamiliar place. But when she discovers a small wooden box and a diary from the 1940s beneath the floorboards of her daughter’s bedroom, Zoe enters the inner world of young Josie, who once looked out on the same view of the Atlantic Ocean, but who knew a very different Casablanca.

It’s not long before Zoe begins to see her adopted city through Josie’s eyes. But can a new perspective help her turn tragedy into hope, and find the comfort she needs to heal her broken heart?

In this evocative tale from the bestselling author of The Dressmaker’s Gift, a strange new city offers a young girl hope. Can it also offer a lost soul a second chance?

Morocco, 1941. With France...

A Note From the Publisher

Fiona spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007, before returning to live in Scotland. Her love for both of these countries, their people and their histories, has found its way into the books she’s written.

She draws inspiration from the stories of strong women, especially during the years of the Second Word War, and her meticulous historical research enriches her writing with an evocative sense of time and place.

An acclaimed Number 1 bestselling author, Fiona Valpy’s books have been translated into more than a dozen languages worldwide.

Fiona spent seven years living in France, having moved there from the UK in 2007, before returning to live in Scotland. Her love for both of these countries, their people and their histories, has...

Advance Praise

“A novel that will whisk you to another time and place, The Storyteller of Casablanca is a tender tale of hope, resilience, and new beginnings.” —Imogen Clark, bestselling author of Postcards From a Stranger

“Fiona Valpy has an exquisite talent for creating characters so rounded and delightful that they almost feel like family, and this makes what happens to them feel very personal.” —Louise Douglas, bestselling author of The House by the Sea

“A novel that will whisk you to another time and place, The Storyteller of Casablanca is a tender tale of hope, resilience, and new beginnings.” —Imogen Clark, bestselling author of Postcards From a...

Available Editions

ISBN 9781542032100
PRICE £8.99 (GBP)

Available on NetGalley

NetGalley Shelf App (PDF)
Send to Kindle (MOBI)
Download (PDF)

Average rating from 217 members

Featured Reviews

Zoe is finding it almost impossible to settle into her new life in Morocco, with her husband and a new baby and being so far from home. While investigating her new home, she finds a wooden box under the floorboards in her daughter’s bedroom. In the box are the diary and letters of Josie, a young girl waiting with her family in Casablanca in 1940 for transport to the United States, as they try to stay one step ahead of the Nazis. In Josie’s diary, Zoe is able to explore a city and a time long vanished, both the beauty and the terror. This is an unforgettable read, you can almost smell the cinnamon and allspice of the bazaar

Was this review helpful?

This is a vivid and unique story with a setting that's just what I needed right now!

The author does a good job of drawing us in while letting the story evolve at its own pace. A new to me author that I will be recommending.

Was this review helpful?

My thanks to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing/Lake Union Publishing for this advance copy in exchange for an honest review.

Initially I found the narrative immature, but then had to revise my opinion as the story unfolded. It was apt for the tale and surprisingly, Josie’s narrative did mature over time.

With a love for Morocco I could not resist requesting this book. Despite containing descriptions of the landscape, cities and people of Morocco, bringing back fond memories of my recent visits, it’s not a page-turner. The history of Morocco during WW2, as retold in Josie’s diary, were informative and well researched. A diary written by an 13 year old and the current day events of a troubled young married woman, switches frequently between each one’s story. The characters were well portrayed and for the most part likeable.

Was this review helpful?

Zoe is having a hard time adjusting to her new life in Casablanca. After finding a box containing a journal of a 13 year old girl, Josie, that was written in the 1940s.

The story switches back and forth as Zoe reads Josie’s story and begins to fall in love with the city that Josie describes so well.

I loved that Josie’s writing in her journal matured as she did. The detail and research done for this book was phenomenal.

Was this review helpful?

A wonderful tale that toggles back and forth from current period to 1940s period. The writing develops throughout the story as the child, Josie, in the 1940s matures through the actions that surround her. In addition, Zoe finds the strength within the writing of the child to provide a new direction in her life. The descriptions of the landscape, cities and people of Morocco, are wonderfully descriptive and provides a view into a place I have not visited to date. The history of Morocco during WWII, told in Josie’s diary, were informative and well researched. A diary written by an 13 year old and the current day events of a troubled young married woman, switches frequently between each one’s story. The characters were well portrayed and were mostly enjoyable characters. I enjoyed the different perspective of the war and how it did have far reaches that might not have always been the mainstream.

Was this review helpful?

Having read and enjoyed The Skylark’s Secret by Fiona Valpy, I had to request this book. I was not disappointed. It is a story written in dual timelines. Zoe, young , married with a baby, goes to live in Casablanca when her husband accepts a posting there. He works for a shipping company and spends a lot of time at work. Zoe is befriended by some of the other expats, and is encouraged to take part in some of their activities. One day, she finds a loose floorboard in her daughter’s bedroom. When she tries to fix it, she discovers a wooden box containing a journal, hidden underneath. The journal was written in 1941, by a 13 year old Jewish girl, who had fled, with her family, from their home in Paris to escape the Nazis. It describes life in Casablanca during the war years and the difficulties refugees were facing there.
I loved the little fables interspersed in the story and also liked the descriptions of the Medina, the people, the landscape and life in general.
I was not expecting the final turn in the story.
My thanks to NetGalley, Fiona Valpy and Lake Union Publishing for an ARC copy of this lovely story.

Was this review helpful?

I was totally immersed in this book and absolutely loved it. I have enjoyed all Fiona Valpy's novels and her interweaving of present day stories wit historical fiction is mesmerising. The underlying narrative of coping with grief resonated with me very strongly personally. Superb!

Was this review helpful?

This book will be included in my Most Favorite Books Read in 2021 list. I was moved by so many things in this incredibly beautiful book. Ms. Valpy's story telling of these two women in two different times is beautiful, the setting is magical. It's a book I'll be sharing with family and friends for a long time to come.

Was this review helpful?

This was a wonderfully descriptive novel that takes place in Morocco, mostly Casablanca. You can almost see, hear, touch and smell the surroundings in the novel. I’ve been to Casablanca just once, many years ago but this book has peaked my interest into perhaps thinking about visiting again at some point when the world has opened up again.

The book is written in a dual time line. Our main character is Zoe, who is fairly new to Casablanca and trying hard to fit in to the expat community with the help of a few welcoming and helpful women. Her husband Tom has been transferred with his job to the city. There is also their baby Grace filling up Zoe’s days. However, Zoe is lonely and spends many hours on her own while Tom works late. While in her daughter’s bedroom, she finds a loose floorboard and underneath is a little box with a few trinkets and a diary. The diary is of a young girl of 13 called Josie written during the second world war. Josie and her family had left Paris to go to America to escape the Nazis in France. Their time in Casablanca was to be a stop-over, just for a short while until their papers for the United States came through. Zoe begins reading the diary and soon finds herself intrigued by the young author of the diary and wondering what became of them. She starts doing a little bit of research of her own.

It took me a little while to get into this novel but once I did, I was very interested. There was the hint throughout the book that something wasn’t right in Zoe and Tom’s marriage and you need to keep reading to understand what happened to this couple in order for them to seem so broken.

I enjoyed the two timelines in the novel. I equally liked the two main characters but I was particularly interested in Josie’s story. We hear about WWII in various places throughout the world but this was the first time I’ve read a story about Morocco during the second world war.

Thank you to NetGalley and Amazon Publishing UK for the advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Was this review helpful?

What a joy! Treat yourself to The storyteller of Casablanca and let Fiona Valpy wit, poignancy, and insight take you away' A real treat!
Let this book take you away to another land for a few hours of pure delight.

Was this review helpful?

Another first for me in a book by Fiona Valpy. I've read a great deal about the diaspora of Jews and refugees in WW2 but nothing about Morocco. The setting is a perfect place for the story to take place.
The dual narrative switches between 1941-1943 and 2010. In 2010, Zoe and her family have come to Casablanca with her husband's work, in hopes of a fresh start after some unrevealed trauma in the past.
This is contrasted with 13 year old French refugee Josie's diary of life in Casablanca after her family escapes from Paris, waiting to get to America.

Both stories were interesting and kept me intrigued as to what fate awaited their respective characters. I had an idea the twist at the end was coming but it did take me by surprise and brought together the threads of the narrative, explaining the ideas dangled in front of us but never explained.

I really enjoyed the author's descriptions of Morocco and the way she highlights the ongoing global refugee crisis.

I would definitely recommend this book and am very grateful to the publishers and Netgalley for an early release copy.

Was this review helpful?

I got bored reading the diary of a 12 year old, after all I’m an adult who needs to be entertained by my reading. This felt more like a YA book. Not for me.

Was this review helpful?

Excellent book! I love all of this author’s books. Fabulous storyline and educational at the same time.

Was this review helpful?

Zoe and her husband move to Casablanca to try to put right their troubled marriage. At the house they move to Zoe uncovers a diary from 1941 written by a 12 year old Jewish/Catholic girl - Josie. Her family have fled Paris as the Nazis rolled in and she tells of their struggle to obtain papers to reach America and safety whilst living under the threat of Nazi invasion and arrest in Morocco. Friendships form with a Moroccan girl and a refugee Jewish boy who lives in much poorer circumstances whilst Josie’s father becomes involved in the local resistance.

The modern day parallel sees Zoe becoming involved in a charity which supports women and children who have escaped torture and struggle in other African countries and we see how their support for each other is a healing force for Zoe.

Set against a Moroccan backdrop, which is a more unusual perspective for WW2 drama. If I have any criticism, it is that Josie’s diary is a little simplistic in style, but that is necessarily so given her age.

I found myself, surprisingly to me, caught up more in Josie’s story and was keen to read the chapters of her life. Very readable book, which draws you in, as tension builds in respect of what will happen to the Second World War family and whether Zoe’s marriage can survive the unspoken issues which have caused its breakdown. Definitely a good read and, as it developed, more and more difficult to put down.

Was this review helpful?

The storyteller of Casablanca is a story with two narratives, one in the 1940s and one in 2010. Both are a fascinating look into like in Morocco during tumultuous times.

Josie is a 12 year old refugee from Nazi occupied France who has arrived in Casablanca on her way to America. Her story is shared through diary entries of her time in Morocco as her family waits for their visas to travel to America. For a 12 year old, she is remarkably observant, brave and compassionate. She does, helpfully, describe herself as precocious from the outset, which is perhaps to help the reader get used to her remarkably mature voice. Her chapters were the most interesting as she explored her new city and country. However, at one point the modern reader, Zoe, does describe the fear she feels for Josie and that she is getting from Josie herself, but up to that moment, I had not really noticed it.

In 2010, Zoe has also just arrived in Casablanca and is living in the house Josie once did. It is clear that something is going on with Zoe but it is purposefully kept from the reader. While I understand why, it didn’t make Zoe’s reading too compelling. Usually with these types of characters there’s some drive to learn more about the past character because they’re connected, the modern one is a historian, journalist and so on. However, in Zoe’s case, she’s just reading the diary out of curiosity. When she does choose to do research it is incorporated into the story a little awkwardly. You suddenly have the sense of Zoe breaking the 4th wall and speaking to you directly.

Of the two characters, Zoe is less interesting and I probably would have been happy just to read Josie’s story.

One big plus point of the book is the devotion to detail about Morocco, today and during the war. I know very little about the North African front during WWII and have yet to visit Morocco so I deeply enjoyed learning about these things through our characters eyes.

Was this review helpful?

Review – The Storyteller of Casablanca by Fiona Valpy

Zoe and her new baby daughter, finds herself in Casablanca after her husband’s transfer. She has difficulties settling in the new city, finding new friends, and her anxiety nearly stifles her. Zoe notices a loose board in the floor of the baby’s room. Under the boards Zoe finds an old diary and a wooden box. She begins reading the diary.

Josie, a twelve year old girl, flees Paris with her family for Casablanca in 1941. The war is reaching for the family as they are awaiting passage on a ship to America. Several fascinating characters come into each life.

Such descriptive and enjoyable adventures and new experiences await both protagonists. As the story weaves, it brings both females awareness of their desires to belong in the captivating city while learning about themselves in the process. I was thoroughly engaged in this enthralling story.

Was this review helpful?

This is a beautifully descriptive book. Makes me want to visit Morocco. My favourite genre of WWII historical fiction. This books has dual timelines in 1940's and 2010's Casablanca. Zoe moves to Casablanca for her husband's work and finds a box with a young girl, Josie's, diary and keepsakes under the floorboard of the house she moves in. Two storylines interweave as we learn of Josie's family's time in Casablanca and Zoe's struggles in her marriage. This novel contains a number of themes including Jewish refugees trying to get to America, French Resistance in Morocco, dreamseller/storyteller traditions in Africa, the use of quilts in the Underground Railroad, loss and bereavement, and the current global refugee crisis. Beautifully written! "Papa says kindness is one of the most important things in the world but a lot of people seem to have forgotten that nowadays."

Was this review helpful?

Yet another dual timeline book! I did enjoy this book and thank NetGalley for the advance copy.
I found the beginning of this book to be formulaic....someone finds a hidden journal and becomes enmeshed in their story. I did like how we never know what Zoe's problems are until the conclusion of the book. I found some of the events very predictable, but it was a decent read.

Was this review helpful?

Thank you to NetGalley for providing a digital copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. This is a gripping story of unimaginable loss and how one pushes forward when hopelessness lingers. Casablanca is where we meet Josie in 1941 and Zoe in 2010, two stories interwoven as told through Josie's diary that Zoe discovers in her new home. Josie and her family escape from Paris and settle in Casablanca before moving on to America. Zoe and her husband move to Casablanca to give their marriage a second chance. Both women find the city and its vibrant personalities attractive and spare no time making the most of their days.
The colorful descriptions of the sights, sounds and food were so life-like, I could imagine myself walking along the cobblestones of Casablanca! There were several aspects of the story that I thoroughly enjoyed - the tales told by the dreamseller, the way a band of misfits form in pursuit of resistance, learning the tradition of quilting as a means to record culture and history, family grief and loss and how those closest to you will nurture you to your new normal. Ultimately, this shows how the power of storytelling - those you learn and those you speak - will set you free.

Was this review helpful?

I have always enjoyed Fiona Valpy’s books but this book is her best one so far..It transports to wartime Casablanca and then to modern times. The 2 main characters are a joy to learn about and leave you cheering them on. This is one of the best books I have read in a long time.

Was this review helpful?

This is a beautiful story which had me absolutely hooked! Whilst reading this I felt as though I was right there in Casablanca drinking the mint tea and eating all the gorgeous food alongside Josie and Zoe.
I liked how the author used two time frames and changed the characters point of views