Author: Justine Saracen
Publisher: Bold Strokes Publishing
Cover Artist: unknown
Rating: 4.00 of 5 Stars
Antonia Forrester, an English nurse, is nearly killed while trying to save soldiers fleeing at Dunkirk. Embittered, she returns to occupied Brussels as a British spy to foment resistance to the Nazis. She works with urban partisans who sabotage deportation efforts and execute collaborators, before résistante leader Sandrine Toussaint accepts her into the Comet Line, an operation to rescue downed Allied pilots.
After capture and then escape from a deportation train headed for Auschwitz, the women join the Maquis fighting in the Ardenne Forests. Passion is the glowing ember that warms them amidst the winter carnage until London radio transmits the news they’ve waited for. Huddled in the darkness, they hear the coded message, the “long sobs of the violins,” signaling that the Allied Invasion is about to begin.
This book covered a time period I’m very interested in – WWII – and a topic that kept playing on my mind a lot recently – life in Western Europe under the Nazi occupation. Add to that a love story between two strong women, and I was game.
First of all, this book is labeled “Lesbian General Fiction” , not romance, and that was exactly what it was. Well, there was a romantic subplot, but rather underdeveloped – which almost seems a given with a story about a British spy and a résistance fighter in war-riddled Belgium – even though what little of that there was I felt quite realistically done and poignant. But there was actually very little romanticism in this book at all, neither in regard to the love story nor the résistance fighters or the characters’ day-to-day struggle for survival. I liked that, actually; this story showed the dirt, blood, tears and death that is war and didn’t turn it into a heroic saga. Good people do horrible things, bad people do admirable things in this story, like it happens in real life. It made me wonder: what would I have done in some of the characters’ places? I love it when this happens, when a historical book makes me think
As for historical accuracy, I’m no historian, but I didn’t find any logical fault in the proceedings. The author created an enthralling picture of the time period. She mentions in her notes that she did interviews with survivors and descendants of some of the acting characters; she even uses real peoples’ names in the book in compliment to their memory. Also, the sense of time and place in this story struck me as outstanding. I happen to know some of the locations where the story is set, and I felt transported there, sixty years in the past. Whether starving Brussels under the occupation, the Ardenne forest, the battles and fights, nightly parachuting behind enemy lines, the deportation camps – everything was depicted with haunting realism.
The story in and of itself was really gripping; I was totally wrapped up in it and could barely put the book down! Relating to suspense and action, this book is on par with many a spy thriller I’ve read. But the reading experience was even more intense for the glimpses into so many characters’ single fates this story offered.
The narrative was straightforward, a little bit detached, even somewhat overfraught with technical details at times. The way this story was told kept me – as the reader – at a distance from the characters; although I cared for them, for all of them, I didn’t even feel really connected to the two heroines. However, style and language fit the spirit of the times and made the whole book a well-rounded reading experience.
I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the eARC of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.
Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,
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