Re-read for July 2016 UC Book Club selection
It is pleasure to know that some books stay as good as you remember. Now, if you need me I will be the crying mess in the corner that is cursing Hollywood that this hasn't been filmed yet.
There is something lacking in war stories that make it to television. We have great battle epics, such as appear on HBO, and we have the rescue stories that appear everywhere. Understandably the battle epics focus on men; what women appear are wives, girlfriends, mothers, nurses, victims. The rescue stories tend to focus more on women rescuers, possibly to make up for the lack of women in the battle stories. I don’t know. And this is true even when the film is not about WW II. Look at Birdsong, War Horse, Cold Mountain.
Yet, women did fight in most, if not all, of the wars. Whether it was as last line of defense, disguised as a man, as spies, in factories, as couriers, as pilots, tank drivers, or snipers; women were fighting in battle long before Congress debated whether or not it should be allowed.
I’m not sure why this gets ignored. Perhaps because the unknown stories outweigh the known ones. Perhaps because it disrupts our view of motherhood. Perhaps because being a wireless operator is less glorious than being a fighter pilot. Maybe because the women didn’t want to talk about it. But it’s been known for awhile. Shoot, The Longest Day has a woman Resistance member.
Another thing that gets downplayed or ignored is female friendship, which always takes second seat to a romance or, more often, fighting over a man. One woman is always superior, better, than the other.
So it is refreshing to read something like this book.
I swear if this book doesn’t win some award, I’ll thump someone. I’ll break legs. I’ll hunt awards committees down. I’m tired of watching good authors get passed over for stupid reasons.
Now the bookstores will tell you this book is Young Adult. That is a lie. It is a historical novel for anyone (though parents should be warned there is torture).
The book relates the experiences of Maddie and Queenie, two young women who joined various British divisions, Aircraft Aux and SOE, during WW II. It starts with Queenie writing as she is imprisoned in occupied France. She has been picked up because she looked the wrong way when crossing the street. The book is told, largely, though first person (the narrative does switch, but the voices are so different), and is a book about friendship as well as a person’s ability to do. The focus is mainly on women, though the men are not depicted as evil or misogynistic. It is such a layered and tight book, and I can’t say why because I don’t want to spoil it. If you are looking for a war torn romance, this isn’t it (a romance is hinted at).
But this book. This is a great book. From the first sentence, you are brought in. The characters, in particular Maddie and Queenie, are so real. It is like they are there before. The novel is also, in some ways, a rebuke to those stupid cat fighting television shows because the women help themselves here.
Just read it. Okay.
P.S. I’ve looked over the negative reviews, and some people do have a point. I will say, however, what they complain about is explained in the second half of the book (and Queenie is tortured for a variety of reasons even as she is writing, though this might have been corrected post ARC).