A Story Of Bravery During A Dark Time In History. @bakeandwrite Reviews #WW2 #Histfic Over The Hedge by @MahurinPaulette

Today’s team review is from Robbie. She blogs here https://robbiesinspiration.wordpress.com/

Rosie's #Bookreview Team #RBRT

Robbie has been reading Over The Hedge by Paulette Mahurin

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When I saw the blurb of this book, I knew I had to read it. I am fascinated by books set during periods of war and am especially interested in how war impacts on the civilian populations in war torn countries.

Over the Hedge is a book that explores the horror of WWII and how the Nazi occupation impacted on the population of Amsterdam in the Netherlands. It explores the psychology of various people and demonstrates how fear can tear societies apart and cause women fearing for the lives of their own children to perform the heinous act of handing Jewish relatives, including small babies, over to the Nazis, knowing they were destined for deportation to camps. I think this aspect of this book is closest to my heart as I consider the internal conflict of such women and wonder what I would do in a similar situation. I hope I would behave better than they did, but it eats at my mind.

The story centres around the true facts of a trio of members of the Dutch resistance who worked with other brave men and women to save 600 small children from the concentration camps. These three people from vastly different backgrounds were Walter Süskind, a German Jew living in the Netherlands, Henriëtte Pimentel, a Sephardic Jew, and Johan van Hulst, the principal of a Christian college.

Walter works for the Hollandsche Schouwburg deportation centre for Dutch Jews which is situated across the street from the daycare operated by Henriëtte. The Christian college is located next door to the day care. The Jewish families arriving at the deportation centre are separated from their children who are sent across the street to the day care for the night. Walter finds a way of altering the arrivals records of selected small children who are then smuggled ‘over the hedge’ to the college where they are taken, at great personal risk, by various students and other resistance members to Dutch families willing to care for these children. The author provides some details on a few of the children and the sad state they arrive in which makes the drama and emotion of the story much more intense.

One such child was Aviva, a two-and-a-half-year-old girl who is deaf and mute. This is a short extract:
“”Aviva …,” Johan let out a chuckle, “laughed.”
“Laughed? But she’s mute-“
“Yes. She’s quite expressive with bodily motions. Silent laughter, a new one on me. Kaat too.”
“Well, that’s good, she’s adjusting, but … it seems unusual she didn’t act fearful.”
“The affectionate dedication of a good mother can do wonders,” said Johan. “The mother must have been an extraordinarily loving women.”

Walter is a scared, worn-out shell of a man, whose own wife and daughter are in hiding in a Dutch resistance member household. He has to deal with the Nazis who are fearful of their own positions and lives and take their anger out on the Jews in the deportation centre, and later anywhere they find hidden Jews. Despite his own personal fear, Walter manages to bring some comfort to the Jewish mothers and fathers in the centre and ask their permission to help their babies. Walter lives for the babies he is able to help save. The strain on him in his untenable position as part of the conduit between life and death for the deportees wears him down over the course of the book, but Walter shows extraordinary determination and tenacity in helping save the children.

Henriëtte is also an extraordinary woman, who does a lot to uplift the spirits of the Jewish workers at the daycare and also Walter. She is a woman of excellent insight and is able to judge character when Walter’s abilities falter. Her kind and loving nature made her story all the more sad and poignant.

Johan was a brave man, who put himself at risk to help save others. I think this is the height of bravery; to act when you are afraid and do what you believe to be right. Without all three of these dedicated and selfless people, the 600 children who were passed ‘over the fence’ would have died.

Aside from Johan, there were many other Dutch people who contributed to the rescue operation and their actions gave me some comfort that even in the most terrible situations, the good in many people still comes to the fore and all is not lost because of it.

This is a very compelling story and is one that everyone should read to ensure that mankind remembers and takes steps to ensure this history is never repeated. Congratulations to the author on an excellent and well researched book.

Desc 1

During one of the darkest times in history, at the height of the German occupation of the Netherlands in 1943, members of the Dutch resistance began a mission to rescue Jewish children from the deportation center in Amsterdam. Heading the mission were Walter Süskind, a German Jew living in the Netherlands, Henriëtte Pimentel, a Sephardic Jew, and Johan van Hulst, principal of a Christian college. As Nazis rounded up Jewish families at gunpoint, the three discreetly moved children from the deportation center to the daycare across the street and over the backyard hedge to the college next door. From the college, the children were transported to live with Dutch families. Working against irate orders from Hitler to rid the Netherlands of all Jews and increasing Nazi hostilities on the Resistance, the trio worked tirelessly to overcome barriers. Ingenious plans were implemented to remove children’s names from the registry of captured Jews. To sneak them out of the college undetected past guards patrolling the deportation center. To meld them in with their new families to avoid detection. Based on actual events, Over the Hedge is the story of how against escalating Nazi brutality when millions of Jews were disposed of in camps, Walter Süskind, Henriëtte Pimentel, and Johan van Hulst worked heroically with the Dutch resistance to save Jewish children. But it is not just a story of their courageous endeavors. It is a story of the resilience of the human spirit. Of friendship and selfless love. The love that continues on in the hearts of over six hundred Dutch Jewish children.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #WW2 #HistoricalFiction CITADEL by Kate Mosse

CitadelCitadel by Kate Mosse

4 stars

Citadel by Kate Moss is a mainly a World War Two story about the French Resistance, but it also has a paranormal sub theme. Set in the south of France, the war story begins in 1942 and focuses on a resistance group led strongly by a group of women; they call themselves Citadel.

The second theme is about a lost Codex, which was believed to be buried in the foothills of the Pyrenees several hundred years ago. If found it may be a useful tool in the war as it is said to unleash a powerful army.

The story goes back and forth between the war years and the year 342 when a young Monk travels through France with the precious Codex. Before I read this book I was aware that the Languedoc region of France had strong connections with early Christianity and the Knights Templar, so when a friend gave me this book saying it was about the World War Two Resistance and set in the south of France, this ticked two boxes of interest for me. I had not previously read the first two books in the series and it didn’t seem necessary to have done so before starting this story. My favourite parts always involved the thrilling resistance episodes; the fear, tension and lengths that people went to, while fighting for what they believed in.

There were a lot of characters, but then there is also a lot of book! My copy had approximately 900 pages. I liked the war theme of this book, but I don’t think I would read the others in the series as the paranormal element of the Codex was less interesting.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

1942, Nazi-occupied France. Sandrine, a spirited and courageous nineteen-year-old, finds herself drawn into a Resistance group in Carcassonne – codenamed ‘Citadel’ – made up of ordinary women who are prepared to risk everything for what is right. And when she meets Raoul, they discover a shared passion for the cause, for their homeland, and for each other. But in a world where the enemy now lies in every shadow – where neighbour informs on neighbour; where friends disappear without warning and often without trace – love can demand the highest price of all.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT #WW2 #HistoricalFiction SOMERVILLE’S WAR by Andrew Duncan @vinehousedist

Today’s team review is from Liz, she blogs here https://lizannelloyd.wordpress.com/

#RBRT Review Team

Liz has been reading Somerville’s War by Andrew Duncan

As a child I was fascinated by the tales my parents told of their time in the services in Europe during the war and moreover, stories about the Resistance or SOE have always interested me, so I opened this book with excitement.  Beginning in August 1940, we witness the last race of Somer River Sailing Club.  Through the eyes of trainee Polish spy “Labrador” we watch Leonora win the race and receive a kiss from her father, Brig, who is Captain of the club.  Soon we are immersed in the upper-class life of Somerville with its established pecking order of aristocrats who have known each other for most of their lives. Yet close by young men are training for undercover action in France and Leo cannot wait to join the ATA where she will pilot planes from one British aerodrome to another, so that male pilots can take them into action.

But unknown to the local community “Brig”, the Brigadier, plays a major role in coordinating the training of undercover agents at Woodland house, hidden in the woods at Somerville. Soon, Henry, long-time friend of Leo, and her potential suitor, will also be trained alongside Labrador. The action will move to Normandy and the young men will be in great danger.

This is a study of the changes in everyday life brought about by wartime, but it is also a thrilling tale of heroism and a slow-burning love story.  Leo’s spontaneous character is easy to identify with, but I also began to understand the taciturn Brig who did his duty for his country and dearly loved his family. A beautifully written novel, revealing many fascinating details about flying Spitfires, conducting undercover warfare and dealing with betrayal in the best possible way.

Book description

The strange brigadier who hardly speaks… Leo, his feisty pilot daughter… Labrador, the vengeful Pole… Henry Dunning-Green, Leo’s boring suitor… Adrian Russell, the treacherous master spy… … All linked by SOE Somerville, the top secret Second World War finishing school for spies on England’s south coast, and its local community: A melting pot of intrigue and counter-intrigue. A fast-unfolding, untold tale of deception, betrayal and romance leading to a tense life-or-death climax in occupied France. Many of the events actually took place. This is the first fictional treatment of life at the famous Special Operations Executive ‘finishing school’ for spies, SOE Beaulieu in the New Forest (renamed SOE Somerville). It’s also the first fully realised fictional portrait of master spy and traitor Kim Philby (renamed Adrian Russell) who lectured at SOE Beaulieu.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #WW2 resistance-themed drama Never Say Goodbye by Hilary Green

Never Say GoodbyeNever Say Goodbye by Hilary Green

4 stars

Never Say Goodbye is a war-time drama. It is the story of secret agent Diana Stevens, known as Steve, who was sent into eastern France. Her role was a messenger and coordinator of other established spies’ activities. She used her initiative to manage resistance members, organise parachute drops of arms, and to aid sabotaging of railway lines.

The writing style and attention to detail brought out a real sense of danger. I really enjoyed the time spent building Steve’s character and how the story unfolded. There was plenty of tension and atmosphere, and the situations in which Steve found herself felt realistic.

Eastern France is not an area I know, but I could picture the towns and the forests that Steve moved through. I thought the author did well with the minor characters too; at no time did I feel overwhelmed by their numbers. My only niggle was a change to some of the last few chapters when a main character from a previous novel had several chapters from her point of view; they just felt a bit awkward in this book.

Overall a very good World War Two resistance-themed story.

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Book description

Diana knows what she is getting herself into when she applies to become an agent for the Special Operations Executive. The training is demanding—sabotage, codes, hand-to-hand combat, parachute jumps. Soon she finds herself in a Lysander flying to France, where any mistake could mean capture, torture, or death, for her and for the innocent people of France.

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Rosie’s #BookReview Team #RBRT @CathyRy reviews #HistFic Wolfsangel by @LizaPerrat

Today’s team review is from Cathy, she blogs at http://betweenthelinesbookblog.com

#RBRT Review Team

Cathy has been reading Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat

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We first meet Céleste Roussel as an elderly lady attending a memorial ceremony with the remaining survivors of their village, along with their families. The atrocities and personal losses of WWII still weigh heavily and as Céleste reads the engraved names she is assaulted by memories, the decisions she made, actions she took, the feelings of guilt and sorrow which never truly leave her. Her granddaughter now wears the bone angel talisman passed down through the women of her family for generations.

This second book in The Bone Angel trilogy tells of Celeste’s life in Occupied France. The story, narrated by the young Céleste, gives a personal account of her experiences, as Lucie-sur-Vionne suffers under the rule of German forces. Her father had been taken to work for the Reich, her mother’s income was supplemented by her herbal remedies and her role as ‘angel maker’. Céleste and her mother have a difficult relationship, both are harbouring dangerous and traumatic secrets.

Céleste’s brother, Patrick, is a Resistance fighter with their friend, Olivier, and her sister, a nun, hides Jewish fugitives at the convent. Headstrong and sometimes reckless, Céleste wants nothing more than to fight for France and after proving herself a worthy candidate, she travels to Lyons to join the Resistance. Her courage is tested to its limits with tension filled exploits driven by anger and revenge. All leave their mark but through it all she grows and develops.

Based on historical fact, this powerful and skilfully written tale depicts the dangers, hardships and turbulence experienced by those who lived through the Occupation. Atmospheric and vividly descriptive, we see what an intense and far reaching effect it has on those subjected to unimaginable callousness and fear. The last horrific atrocity carried out by the Germans as the war comes to a close is the most horrendous and leaves Céleste with the literal and figurative scars that will haunt her throughout her life. A moving and tragic end to the story, made especially so by the author’s note at the end of the book.

Book Description

Seven decades after German troops march into her village, Céleste Roussel is still unable to assuage her guilt.
1943. German soldiers occupy provincial Lucie-sur-Vionne, and as the villagers pursue treacherous schemes to deceive and swindle the enemy, Céleste embarks on her own perilous mission as her passion for a Reich officer flourishes.
When her loved ones are deported to concentration camps, Céleste is drawn into the vortex of this monumental conflict, and the adventure and danger of French Resistance collaboration.
As she confronts the harrowing truths of the Second World War’s darkest years, Céleste is forced to choose: pursue her love for the German officer, or answer General de Gaulle’s call to fight for France.
Her fate suspended on the fraying thread of her will, Celeste gains strength from the angel talisman bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen. But the decision she makes will shadow the remainder of her days.
A woman’s unforgettable journey to help liberate Occupied France, Wolfsangel is a stirring portrayal of the courage and resilience of the human mind, body and spirit.

About the author

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Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her family for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist.
Since completing a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine, France Today and The Good Life France.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the French historical “The Bone Angel” series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series, Wolfsangel, set during the WWII Nazi Occupation of France, was published in October, 2013. The third, Blood Rose Angel, set during the 14th century Black Plague years was published in November, 2015.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Team #RBRT @OlgaNM7 reviews #WW2 #HistFic Wolfsangel by @LizaPerrat

Today’s team review is from Olga, she blogs at http://www.authortranslatorolga.com

#RBRT Review Team

Olga has been reading Wolfsangel by Liza Perrat

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My review:

This is the third book by Liza Perrat I have read, and it won’t be the last one. After The Silent Kookaburra set in Australia in the 1970s, I read the first book in the Bone Angel Series, Spirit of Lost Angels. (Read the review here). This is a series that follows the women of a French rural family through the generations, with big jumps in time. The name comes from a little bone angel talisman these women wear and inherit down the female line, together with a skill and talent for nursing (including knowledge of herbs and natural remedies) and midwifery. While Spirit of Lost Angels is set around the time of the French Revolution, this book follows the main character, Célestine (Céleste) through the difficult years of the German occupation of France during the Second World War and its immediate aftermath.

The book is again narrated by its protagonist, a young girl, eager to prove herself and to lead an interesting life away from her seemingly uncaring and cold mother, in the first person. I know some readers do not like first person narrations although they bring an immediacy and closeness to the proceedings, and help us understand better the main character (well, to the point she understands herself). This device also means that we share in the point of view and opinions of Céleste and we are as surprised by events as she is, as we do not have any more information than she does. I am fascinated by narrators, and although Céleste is not an unreliable narrator by design (she does tell things and events as she experiences them), her rushed and unthinking behaviour at times, her quick reactions, and her youth make her not the most objective of people at times. Of course, if readers cannot manage to connect with Céleste at some level, the novel will be harder to read, but she is a likeable character. She is young, impulsive, and enthusiastic. She is eager to help and will often do it without thinking about the consequences and risks she might be taking. She helps a Jewish family very early on, hiding them on the farm, even when she is convinced her mother will not be happy. She wants to help the Resistance cause and is frustrated by the assumption that she is incapable of making any meaningful contribution to the war efforts because she is a woman. She works hard to prove she can be as useful and courageous as a man and runs incredible risks to achieve her goals.

She is not perfect, though, and her youth is particularly well reflected in her romantic attachment to one of the German officers. As is often the case for young lovers, Céleste seems to fall in love with her idea of romance, having only very limited and furtive contact with the officer. If at first she tries to convince herself that she is only playing a part to gather intelligence (and even her sister Felicité encourages her to try and obtain information), soon things turn serious, proving that she is not as calculating and mature as she would like to believe.

Céleste develops throughout the novel, moving to the city, becoming a true resistance fighter, helping the war effort as a nurse, feeding the prisoners at the station on their way to the camps, spying and passing secret information, and becoming a determined and independent woman. She also proves her strength and determination and survives a terrible ordeal and severe losses.

The cast of secondary characters is also exemplary. Céleste’s family (except for her father that we don’t know much about) are well-drawn and fascinating. The relationship mother-daughter is one of the strongest points and it reminds us of the strong bonds and connections between women (not always straight forward) the series is built on. Felicité, Céleste’s sister, is an amazing character, brave beyond the call of duty and, as we learn later, based on a historical figure. Her actions and her courage are very touching. Her brother is strong and supportive, and also a member of the resistance, and we get to know her friends, the doctor, the priest, and to understand that a lot of the population supported the resistance (some more openly than others), although there were collaborationists there too.

The author creates a great sense of place and historical era. The language, the foods, the clothing, the difficulties of an occupied nation trying to survive and resist are vividly brought to life thanks to the detailed descriptions of the landscape and the events, that make us share in the experience, without burdening the novel with extraneous information. The research is seamlessly incorporated into the story and it reminds us of how close the events are to us and makes us reflect on historical similarities with current times. The style of writing is poetic at times (the descriptions of the forest, Céleste’s love for her home and her pendant…), dynamic and flowing, and it has psychological depth and insight too.

The novel is harrowing and realistic as it describes death and tragedy on a big scale. The events that took place in Oradour Sur Glane in 1944 (and that inspired the novel) are horrific and reading them in the first person helps us understand more fully the kind of horror experienced by the victims and also the survivors.

The ending ties all loose ends together and is perfect for the story.

This is a great book for anybody who loves historical fiction and is interested in the French resistance from a more human perspective. It personalises and brings the readers closer to the experience of the era, at the same time helping us reflect on events and attitudes that are all too familiar. If you prefer your history close, personal, and in the first person, this is your book.

Book Description

Seven decades after German troops march into her village, Céleste Roussel is still unable to assuage her guilt.
1943. German soldiers occupy provincial Lucie-sur-Vionne, and as the villagers pursue treacherous schemes to deceive and swindle the enemy, Céleste embarks on her own perilous mission as her passion for a Reich officer flourishes.
When her loved ones are deported to concentration camps, Céleste is drawn into the vortex of this monumental conflict, and the adventure and danger of French Resistance collaboration.
As she confronts the harrowing truths of the Second World War’s darkest years, Céleste is forced to choose: pursue her love for the German officer, or answer General de Gaulle’s call to fight for France.
Her fate suspended on the fraying thread of her will, Celeste gains strength from the angel talisman bequeathed to her through her lineage of healer kinswomen. But the decision she makes will shadow the remainder of her days.
A woman’s unforgettable journey to help liberate Occupied France, Wolfsangel is a stirring portrayal of the courage and resilience of the human mind, body and spirit.

About the author

IMG_5984_1

Liza grew up in Wollongong, Australia, where she worked as a general nurse and midwife for fifteen years.
When she met her French husband on a Bangkok bus, she moved to France, where she has been living with her family for twenty years. She works part-time as a French-English medical translator, and as a novelist.
Since completing a creative writing course ten years ago, several of her short stories have won awards, notably the Writers Bureau annual competition of 2004 and her stories have been published widely in anthologies and small press magazines. Her articles on French culture and tradition have been published in international magazines such as France Magazine, France Today and The Good Life France.

Spirit of Lost Angels is the first in the French historical “The Bone Angel” series set against a backdrop of rural France during the French Revolution. The second in the series, Wolfsangel, set during the WWII Nazi Occupation of France, was published in October, 2013. The third, Blood Rose Angel, set during the 14th century Black Plague years was published in November, 2015.

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The Hidden Village by @ImogenMatthews3 #WW2 #YA #HistFic #Holland @AmsterdamPB

The Hidden VillageThe Hidden Village by Imogen Matthews
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Three point five stars.

The Hidden Village is YA historical fiction set in Holland during World War II. It features the work of the Dutch resistance who hid people from the German army, primarily Jewish families. This story is about a group who created Berkenhout, a hidden village deep in the woods, which the Germans spent many years trying to find. Meanwhile the resistance secretly moved people, food and escaping allied pilots. To give added interest, it’s actually based on a true-life story, from the memories of the author’s mother.

The storyline represented many who risked their lives daily in the fight against the German occupation. It was hard to pick a favourite character; several were children, but I think Jan was portrayed well by the author. The cast of characters is large and interesting, and at times it was hard to keep them all in my head; I wondered if the story would have had more impact with less characters, but more time spent developing key people and the parts they played.

Despite constant raids by the Germans, this is not an action/suspense thriller but an examination of the conflicting emotions of the people forced to live in the village, their reluctance to do so, etc; Sofie worries that she might never be reunited with her family, for instance. It’s very much a ‘human interest’ story, with just a dash of intrigue; the head woodman, Henk Hauer, is under suspicion because of his meetings with the Germans. I would have liked a little more practical information about the construction of the village and how it was hidden, which confused me at first, though this becomes clearer later on.

This is an informative piece of work from an important time in history which highlights the bravery of the Dutch resistance, and shows what the time was like for those who suffered through it.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Book description

Wartime Holland. Who can you trust?
Deep in the Veluwe woods lies a secret that frustrates the Germans. Convinced that Jews are hiding close by they can find no proof.
The secret is Berkenhout, a purpose-built village of huts sheltering dozens of persecuted people.
Young tearaway Jan roams the woods looking for adventure and fallen pilots. His dream comes true when he stumbles across an American airman, Donald C. McDonald. But keeping him hidden sets off a disastrous chain of events.
Sofie, a Jewish Dutch girl, struggles to adapt to living in Berkenhout, away from her family and friends. As weeks turn to months, she’s worried they’ll abandon her altogether. Henk Hauer, head woodman, is in charge of building the underground huts and ensuring the Berkenhout inhabitants stay safe. But many grow suspicious of his liaisons with the Germans. Is he passing on secret information that could endanger lives?
All it takes is one small fatal slip to change the course of all their lives for ever.

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