The Soldier’s Girl is a wartime historical fiction. I bought this book after reading a glowing review of it on another book blog. I enjoy this genre, especially the intense fear and danger that resistance members and agents put themselves under.
The story beings in the pre-war years from 1929. Recently widowed, Sibyl’s mother takes her two young daughters to Alsace, France, where they can heal from the horrors of a father who left them with little financial support. They stay with her mother’s school friend at a vineyard for five years until the threat of war draws near.
By 1938, Sibyl is training as a nurse in England. Fluent in French, German and Alsatian, a local French dialect, she is identified as someone who could be trained as a secret agent. The story then takes us to 1943, when Sibyl is given a new identity as well as her own spy circuit. She’s dropped into the isolated Alsace area to meet with, and help coordinate, the local resistance fighters.
I enjoyed learning about the historical fight for ownership of the Alsace region between Germany and France. I was unaware that during the war, Germany claimed the area as its own, forcing the people to rename their streets, towns and even their family names with German ones. I also liked the parts of the book set around the vineyard; they felt very genuine and idyllically French.
Much of the writing is dialogue-led and although it is used to move the story forward, great chunks of detail in dialogue format are never my favourite style of storytelling. I found Sibyl a disappointment; wartimes spies were extraordinarily careful and professional, as they knew that their work was a matter of life and death. However, reacquainted with Jacques, a childhood friend from the vineyard, she breaks her strict training rules of secrecy. Her radio messaging is unrealistic; everything should be in code, but Sibyl speaks to her contact as if she is using the telephone. And I’m afraid I couldn’t believe that her high-ranking German officer ‘sweetheart’ would be so easily led into gossiping and the divulging of intelligence details to a local girl. This could have been so much darker and more edgy.
Overall, the setting was a delight, but the secret agent aspect was let down by unbelievable actions and it weakened the storyline.
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France 1944. An English Nurse. A German Soldier. A tragic love affair …
English girl Sibyl Lake arrives in Colmar, a small French town, surrounded by vineyards and swarming with German soldiers. Trained as a nurse, Sibyl has been recruited as a British Agent to support the French Resistance.
When Sibyl’s work leads her to her childhood sweetheart Jacques, she is overjoyed. But their happy reunion is shortlived as it is not just Jacques’ eye that Sibyl has caught …
Commander Wolfgang von Haagan is very taken with the attractive English stranger, and Sibyl realises that she can help her own country by listening to the secrets of this soldier’s heart. As she grows closer to Wolfgang she gets to know the man behind the uniform and despite her best intentions, soon she is caught in a terrible love triangle.
And when Jacques finds that Sibyl is involved with the enemy, he is determined to prove himself to her with one last act of heroism. An act that will put all of their lives into terrible danger ….
A gripping and heartbreaking story of love behind enemy lines and the overwhelming tragedy of war.