"You never stop feeling scared. But you have to remember what you're doing it for. We have to win this war."
It's 1944 and London is under attack. After her mother is killed by a bomb, 17-year old Violet is desperate to do her bit for the war effort. She leaps at the chance to join the Special Operations Executive and is give a new undercover identity: Celine. Dropped into France to help the Resistance, Celine finds herself in the heart of the fight against the Nazis. Will she be able to keep her nerve and complete her mission before it's too late?
First impression is that it could be a gripping story. The cover illustration is simple but highly effective. I must admit surprise at how thin the book is but was hoping to find a lot of action. The story was easy to follow and there were parts that reminded me of 'Allo 'Allo! lucky I loved 'Allo ' Allo! so reading the book made me think about talking about what had happened in the previous nights episode with my gran who often mentioned how difficult life was with everything rationed but that was all she ever said about the war.
I must admit that there were parts of the book that almost made me cry, thinking about what they must have gone through. It was great to see Historical note at the end of the book, good to acknowledge the sacrifices made in an effort to win the war. I enjoyed the training part of the story, image having to keep that kind of secret and never knowing who can be trusted.
I was a bit disappointed at the way the book ended. I would have liked a longer story, what happened next. I just felt that we were just getting into the story properly and it was finished. There is so much that could still happen to Celine but that is just me. I'm going to be keeping this book to read over and over and a good way to introduce the subject of the war to the kids when they are a little older.
I notice that there are other titles in the series so I am going on a book hunt as I have the feeling that if read together it will make a more complete picture.
Although more than 70 years have gone by since the end of the Second World War, it is still very much a popular theme for novelists. Young people today, while not having experienced it for themselves, may have grand-parents or even great-grand-parents who were alive then and who can remember many of the events. My own grandmother was in London during the blitz and told me many stories of sleepless nights when bombs were falling all around, and of the many things were in short supply or indeed unobtainable.
I was interested, therefore, to find that this book was partly set in an area of London close to where my grandmother lived. I enjoyed reading the descriptions of the war zone as many of them brought back memories of the true stories I had been told many years ago. It is hard to imagine now what it would be like to have your food rationed and have to make do with what you could get either through bargaining or on the black market.
Violet's story does not stop in London, however. She is recruited to work for the SOE (Special Operations Executive) and, after strenuous training, she travels to France with the new name of Celine to help out with the work of the Resistance. Although it would seem amazing that a young woman of 17, someone who today could still be at school, might be expected to do such a job, it is a fact that very young people were forced to work alongside their elders and to grow up quickly just in order to survive.
The story offers a strong message to young people about the importance of personal resilience and loyalty to family and friends. Violet/Celine has to make choices at times which are incredibly difficult, and mean that she has to stop and weigh up the consequences before making each decision.
I did enjoy the way that the author made the story accessible to younger readers. It is certainly not a dumbed-down version - far from it - but it is not unduly complicated and the storyline is very clear. For a 13 or 14 year old who has little knowledge of this period in history, it is a great introduction to a topic that will no doubt fascinate people for many years to come. And it is incidentally a great adventure story!
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