“I have two weeks. You’ll shoot me at the end no matter what I do.
That’s what you do to enemy agents. It’s what we do to enemy agents. But I look at all the dark and twisted roads ahead and cooperation is the easy way out. Possibly the only way out for a girl caught red-handed doing dirty work like mine — and I will do anything, anything, to avoid SS-Hauptsturmführer von Linden interrogating me again.
He has said that I can have as much paper as I need. All I have to do is cough up everything I can remember about the British War Effort. And I’m going to. But the story of how I came to be here starts with my friend Maddie. She is the pilot who flew me into France — an Allied Invasion of Two.
We are a sensational team.”
The text above is an exact copy of the blurb on the back of the book. I don’t usually use book blurbs in my reviews, I do prefer to give my own summary of a story. But, since this isn’t actually a summary of the story and because it gives a perfect idea of the voice of one of the two main characters in this book I decided to change my habits for once.
The story, what to say about the story? This book is about friendship. It is about the Second World War. It is a story about love and hate, fear and courage, despair and hope. This a heartbreaking page-turner that will leave you breathless, with tears in your eyes and a smile on your face by the time you finish it.
I’m sorry; I was supposed to tell you what this story is about.
Picture England, Manchester during World War II. Maddie is a mechanically minded girl who is fascinated by planes and flying. Queenie is her complete opposite; a Scottish aristocrat, privately taught with a talent for languages. Under any other circumstances their paths probably wouldn’t have crossed and even if they had, as Queenie says, chances are they would never have become friends. But the war is a great equaliser and when circumstances involving a stray German plane in British airspace throw the two girls together it is the start of a deep and beautiful friendship. And it is circumstances mostly beyond their control that have them fly to France together. Maddie, the pilot, is to drop Queenie of for a top secret assignment and pick up stranded pilots for the return trip. When things go wrong Queenie has to parachute out of the plane, leaving behind Maddie in a desperate struggle with a plane that has lost most of its controls. What follows is heartbreaking as well as uplifting and I can’t tell you anything else about it for fear of spoiling the story. Suffice to say you should read it and be amazed.
This book is very well written and at times painfully understated. Horrific events are occasionally referred to in such a casual way that the reader almost misses exactly what they’ve just been told. In fact, the reader is in the dark about exactly what is going on and even what the purpose of the story is until well into the second half of the book. But even with the purpose obscure the story is so fascinating and the below-the-surface tension so intense that it is hard, if not impossible, to put this book down for any period of time.
Years ago I promised myself I wouldn’t read anymore books about World War II. Growing up in Holland every second book – if not more – I read seemed to be about this period and I just couldn’t and wouldn’t invest anymore of my reading time in it. And, for the most part, I’ve stuck to that promise. Occasionally though a book comes along that forces me to break my word to myself. The Book Thief was one such book. And this is another one. Yes, this story is set during World War II, and the war in all its horrors pays a huge role in it. But for me this is, beyond anything else, a book about friendship and loyalty and what people are prepared to do in order to honour both of those. This is a wonderful and thought provoking book, containing a story that will stay with me for a very long time.