Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Girl from the Channel Islands

  The Girl from the Channel Islands
Author:  Jenny Lecoat
Publication Information:  Graydon House. 2021. 304 pages.
ISBN:  978-1525811494

Book Source:  I received this book through NetGalley and the Winter 2021 historical fiction blog tour from Harlequin Trade Publishing free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "The sun's heat had begun to mellow, and the gulls were cruising for their final catch of the day when the siren sounded."

Favorite Quote:  "If she was the only one of her family left, she considered, she carried a responsibility now. She needed to stand up straight again, get a grip on herself."

***** BLOG TOUR *****


The most important thing to know about this book is stated before the book even begins. "This novel is based on true events. In 1940, young Hedwig Bercu, a Jewish girl who had recently escaped the Anschluss, found herself trapped on the tiny island of Jersey when Nazi Germany invaded the Channel Islands. The extraordinary story of Hedy's struggle for survival, including the role played by a serving officer of the occupying forces, was first documented almost sixty years later and is the foundation for this fictionalized account."

At times, this book reads like a romance, physical descriptions and all. At times, this book reads slow for nothing much seems to happen. At times, the book moves at a frantic pace only to end abruptly. All of this makes sense given that the book is based on facts. I could still do without the physical descriptions, but nevertheless. The fact that love is found between two unlikely people - a Jewish girl and a German soldier was a reality of the war. The fact that much of Hedy's time on the island was spent hiding and waiting and hoping not to be found out was a reality of war; life slowed down and focused on survival. The fact that the searches, the attacks, and even the end of the war seemed to arrive suddenly is also part of that same reality.

The fact that stories of the war remain untold and undiscovered does not surprise me; it emphasizes the enormity of devastation and impact. Every statistic, every numbers is a story and a life interrupted and destroyed.

For all that, I love this book. The fact that it takes me to the was in the Channel Island introduces a new history that I have not read about since reading The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society several years ago.

That being said, I enjoyed the "telling" of this story a little bit less. The story has only a few main characters - Hedy, Kurt the German officer, Hedy's friend Anton, and Dorothea. Other German officers and the other Channel Island residents form the background of the story. Somehow, the characters stop short of coming to life in this story. I vest in the story and the outcome because it represents history, but I walk away feeling like I do not really know any of the characters.

Hedy is separated from her entire family and finds her way to the island. The book narrates that as her past but does not delve deeper. Kurt is a soldier who does not believe in the war he is fighting; his conflict is narrated rather than felt. Anton has suffered his own losses and more devastation is to come; yet, his life and loss is not developed. Dorothea is the key to Hedy's survival, but I never quite grasp what leads her to Anton and the life she chooses or how she deals with the disapproval of her family.

At the end, I love the book for the history I learn. The telling of the story leaves me wanting more. 

About the Author

Jenny Lecoat was born in Jersey, Channel Islands, where her parents were raised under German Occupation and were involved in resistance activity. Lecoat moved to England at 18, where, after earning a drama degree, she spent a decade on the alternative comedy circuit as a feminist stand-up. She also wrote for newspapers and women's magazines (Cosmopolitan, Observer), worked as a TV and radio presenter, before focusing on screenwriting from sitcom to sketch shows. A love of history and factual stories and a return to her island roots brought about her feature film Another Mother's Son (2017). She is married to television writer Gary Lawson and now lives in East Sussex. The Girl from the Channel Islands is her first novel.

About the Book

An extraordinary story of human triumph against impossible odds.

The year is 1940, and the world is torn apart by war. In June of that year, Hitler's army captures the Channel Islands--the only part of Great Britain to be occupied by German forces. Abandoned by Mr. Churchill, forgotten by the Allies, and cut off from all help, the Islands' situation is increasingly desperate.

Hedy Bercu is a young Jewish girl who fled Vienna for the island of Jersey two years earlier during the Anschluss, only to find herself trapped by the Nazis once more--this time with no escape. Her only hope is to make herself invaluable to the Germans by working as a translator, hiding in plain sight with the help of her friends and community--and a sympathetic German officer. But as the war intensifies, rations dwindle, neighbors turn on neighbors, and Hedy's life is in greater danger every day. It will take a definitive, daring act to save her from certain deportation to the concentration camps.

A sweeping tale of bravery and love under impossible circumstances, Hedy's remarkable story reminds us that it's often up to ordinary people to be quiet heroes in the face of injustice.

Social Links

Author Website
Twitter: @JennyLecoat
Facebook: @JennyLecoat

Buy Links

Barnes & Noble

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