[Review] What Did You Do In The War Sister?: Catholic Sisters in the World War II Nazi Resistance by Dennis J. Turner

Publisher and Publication Date: Published by the author, Dennis J. Turner. February 27th 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 320.
Format: Kindle e-book edition.
Source: Kindle Unlimited e-book choice.
Audience: World War II readers. Readers who want to read about Catholic nuns who were apart of the Resistance.
Rating: Very good to excellent.

Link at Amazon

Link at Barnes and Noble

I have been curious about what role the Catholic Church had during World War II. I’ve read articles about their inaction in helping the Jews; but I wanted to read true stories or at least stories based on historical truth about those who did work against the Nazi pogrom during World War II. I am especially referring to priests and nuns. This book, What Did You Do In The War Sister? is a very good choice.
I have another book that I’ve not read: Church of Spies: The Pope’s Secret War Against Hitler by Mark Riebling.

Link at Goodreads

Summary:

The book is dedicated to the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur.

The summary of the book at Goodreads doesn’t give much info.

The narrator of the story is a nun, Sister Christina, who is from Ohio. She has a degree and certificate to teach secondary education. She teaches French and German. Despite the building war in Europe, she travels to Belgium to be a nun at a boarding school for girls. The time period is the late 1930s. Through this Sister’s experiences, the daily activities of a Sister and teacher is shown, as well as their work to care for and hide Jews and service men.

Through true letters and diaries of Sisters who wrote about their experiences during World War II, Turner has written a solid historical fiction story.

My Thoughts:

There are things I love about this book and things I dislike:

What I love:
1. I love learning about the Sister’s daily routine duties. Their daily schedule: when they awakened, when they went to bed at night, and everything in-between. The prayer times during the day. Everyone has responsibilities whether it is cooking, laundry, or teaching. And some duties are for all of them.
2. I love the sub-story about a young girl who lives at the school. I wish there had been more individual stories. In sharing their stories, I learn about their lives, their viewpoint about where they reside, and the Sisters who are their teachers and caregivers; plus their circumstances in how they came to live there. Another words, the main voice of the story is from this particular Sister. I’d like to have heard from other voices to fully round out the story. This also makes the story larger-epic.
3. I love the main character, Sister Christina. She is a woman of gusto. She is talented, intelligent, wise, a leader, compassionate, persuasive, adaptable, formidable, and courageous. She is a little too perfect. I am not saying that to be all these positive traits is impossible or wrong. I am saying that as a book character there must be a little imperfectness shown to be believable and approachable. If not, then the character is unapproachable, unknowable, and is seen more as someone who cannot be truly known or even become invested in their outcome.
4. I love the descriptive and graphic accounts of the bombings and its destruction of Belgium. This sets the serious tone of the whole of the story. Nazi Germany is the enemy who has brought war to Belgium. At first the Nazi’s occupy the area. Later, the allied soldiers and the Nazis fight the war in the front yards of the nation.
5. The story has a good pace. It is told in linear-chronological order with the exception of Sister Christina sharing about her background and how she became a Sister.
6. I love the Sister’s ingenuity and tactics in hiding those who the Nazis were looking for. This is an important aspect showing the work they did for those who were in harm’s way.
7. The displacement of the Sisters, children, and community at large are displaced at times because of the war. The Sisters were at risk of homelessness and murder just as all the community was at risk. This is a another strength of the story.
8. I love the tiny historical mentions. For example: the bells from church steeples that were removed by the Germans for war use. The bells had a grade system defined by their age.
9. I love how the story stayed with Sister Christina to show the impact of the war on her health.

A few things I do not like:

1. A few things I noted in the above portion.
2. I don’t like the title. I believe a better title should be short and precise. No question mark.
3. I believe a more enticing summary should be written for Goodreads, etc.
4. I’d like to hear more voices narrating the story. A favorite voice could be from a few of the young girls who lived in the school.

Themes in the story: war, peace, courage, suffering, heroism, honor, death and dying, sacrifice, resistance, trust, hope, grief, bravery, hospitality, survival, and wisdom.

I want to mention my dad was in World War II. He was in Belgium during the winter of 1944-1945. He fought in the Battle of the Bulge. He share several stories about his memories of that time. One of those stories is he too saw Marlene Dietrich in a show. He remarked it was odd she played a saw. I think he missed the point about her showing off her legs during this act.



[Review] Code Name: Lise: The True Story of the Woman Who Became WWII’s Most Highly Decorated Spy by Larry Loftis

Publisher and Publication Date: Gallery Books, a trademark of Simon & Schuster, Inc. 2019.
Genre: Nonfiction. World War II. Women and Literature.
Pages: 384.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of WWII history and SOE British agents.
Rating: Excellent.

Amazon link
Barnes and Noble link

SOE is the initials of Special Operations Executive.
List of female SOE agents during World War II:
Wikipedia.
WordPress blog of Alan Malcher. He has a post about SOE female agents.
Nigel Perrin. This site has a photo archive of the SOE agents and profile information.
Biography Online about Odette Sansom.
Imperial War Museum about Odette Sansom.
History101.com about Odette Sansom.

Summary:

In 1912, Odette Marie Celine Brailly was born in Amiens, France. Her father fought and died in World War I. Odette had a younger brother, Louis. Odette married an Englishman, Roy Sansom, and they had three daughters. After the birth of the first daughter, the family moved to England where the other two daughters were born.
Odette’s grandfather predicted another war. He told his grandchildren to do their “duty, both of you, to do as well as your father did.” From page 2.
When World War II began Odette wanted to serve in some way but hesitated because of her young daughters. In 1942, Odette contacted the War Office and she eventually joined the SOE.
Code Name: Lise is the story of Odette Sansom and her work as a SOE during World War II. The book gives a little background information of her life before 1942, but the book is primarily about her role as an agent.

My Thoughts:

I’ve read a few other books about SOE agents. I’d been a little familiar with her name and history. I am pleased to finally know her full story in history.

Several reasons that led me to give this book an excellent rating:

1. Odette is portrayed as a remarkably strong person who endured separation from family, injuries, imprisonment, and torture. Several times I have been amazed at how she handled herself in a crisis or during those periods when she was tortured. She is a hero.
2. I love it that several black and white photographs are included in the book.
3. The appendix addresses criticism and problems that were brought up in the 1950s with the SOE. Odette was criticized by other agents. In one example, her report of what happened to her were made up-untrue. I am glad Loftis added this chapter to the book for clarification.
4. Code Name: Lise gave me an education of how the SOE agents were trained and how assignments were implemented; and how they were treated by the Gestapo, especially the techniques of interrogation and torture.
5. The book is told in narrative nonfiction and the author narrating.
6. Odette is a compelling historical character. The life she lived during the time period of the book is strong, and it is more than engaging, it is on the edge of your seat drama unfolding.

[Review] The Secret of The Grand Hôtel du Lac by Kathryn Gauci

Publisher and Publication Date: Ebony publishing. 2020.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 274.
Format: Kindle e-book.
Source: Gift.
Audience: Historical fiction readers who enjoy World War II stories.
Rating: Excellent.

The story is inspired by true events in France during World War II.

Kathryn Gauci’s Author Page @Goodreads.
Kathryn Gauci’s Website/ Blog/ Facebook/ Twitter

Summary:

1943. World War II.

Guy Maxwell is an SOE on a mission in France when he is shot in the left leg. He also has other serious injuries. The Germans had intercepted his rendezvous with another agent. Guy Maxwell is thought to be in hiding.

SOE officers Vera Atkins and Colonel Maurice Buckmaster ask Elizabeth to return to France and find Guy. Atkins prepares Elizabeth with accurate clothing, a special make-up compact, brooch pin, and a pistol. Elizabeth returns to France hoping to find Maxwell and solve the mystery of what happened.

Guy and Elizabeth are married.

The time period of this story is leading up to the D-Day, Normandy, France invasion of June 6, 1944.

My Thoughts:

I love this story! I love it because of the two main characters: Guy and Elizabeth.

Elizabeth is one of the toughest female lead characters I’ve read. She is a no-nonsense, intelligent, savvy, beautiful; and, she is handy during a torture scene using her brooch pin. Elizabeth is very much in love with her husband. This is a second aspect of why I love this story: it is a great love story.

I’ve read a few other reviews. One of them is in regards to the inaccurate history of some of the story. For me, I am not bi-lingual. I do not speak or read French. I am not going to catch-on to inaccuracies about the French language and customs. I believe it is possible the average reader is just like me.

Over-all, I believe the story is entertaining, thrilling, and adventurous. It is a strong tension building story. It is difficult to lay the book down.

The story is based on real events that began in October 1944.

Themes in the story: heroism, fear, good and evil, deception, revenge, sacrifice, honor, romance, suffering, survival, war, trust, hope, self-control, and loyalty.

(Review) The Last Bookshop in London by Madeline Martin

Publisher and Publication Date: Hanover Square Press. 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 320.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Historical fiction readers who want to read about civilian life in London during World War II.
Rating: Very good.

Link to Amazon

Link to Goodreads

Summary:

August 1939.

Grace and Viv are best friends. They move to London to start a new life. They’d lived in Drayton, Norfolk since they were born. They are young women in their early twenties. Grace’s mother died a year ago. A friend of her mother’s, Mrs. Weatherford, lives in London and provides a place for the girls to live. She helps them secure jobs.
Grace has a job at a bookshop. Viv has a job at Harrod’s.
Not long after arriving in London the war begins. In less than a year, the German planes begin bombing London.

My Thoughts:

I’ve read a few comments from other reviewers asking if this is a suitable book for young adults? Yes. It is appropriate.

Several reasons why I love this story:
1. The story is in linear or chronological order. It doesn’t jump back and forth in time.
2. The story’s focus is on the experiences of one group of people during the London Blitz.
3. The primary character is Grace. She is a person of high character and this is remarked about in the story more often than her physical beauty. She is a person who transforms during the story. Her character shines.
4. The story has inner and outer conflicts, but mainly outer conflicts and how the characters respond.
5. Romance is apart of the story (in a small part), but the emphasis is not on it. Romance in a story can overwhelm the structure of it, making other elements pale.
6. Other characters I love: Mrs. Weatherford, Mr. Evans, Colin Weatherford, and George Anderson.
7. The Last Bookshop In London is an examination of what it was like in London during the Blitz. I have wanted a book to reflect on this history and I’m so glad this story has been written.

Themes in The Last Bookshop In London: heroism, war, perseverance, compassion, death, courage, bravery, kindness, suffering, survival, charity, grief, dreams, and romance.

(Review) The Girl From the Channel Islands by Jenny Lecoat

Publisher and Publication Date: Graydon House Books. February 2, 2021.
Genre: Historical fiction.
Pages: 304.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Readers of historical fiction who enjoy World War II history.
Rating: Okay.

The book is based on a true story.

Amazon

The Girl From the Channel Islands is a first novel for Jenny Lecoat.

Goodreads author page for Jenny Lecoat.

Summary:

1940.
Jersey. The Channel Islands.

Hedy Bercu is a Jewish young woman who escaped Austria and fled to Jersey. She’s been working in the home of the Mitchells. The Mitchells have left Jersey ahead of the expected German invasion. Hedy is left without a job. She cannot stay in their huge home alone. Her best friend is Anton. He has a new girlfriend named Dorothea or Dory.

After the occupation of the Germans. Hedy is able to work as a translator for them. She begins a romantic relationship with a German officer.

Hedy’s knowledge of what is happening to the Jews in Europe is minimal. She knew enough about the Nazi’s to escape Austria, but she doesn’t know what has happened since she left. She fears for her parents.

My Thoughts:

I don’t know how many fiction and nonfiction books I’ve read on World War II history but it is lengthy. It is rare to read about a Jewish person who became involved romantically with a Nazi. I have often wondered what the percentage is of Jewish women who were in romantic relationships with Nazis? It is possible that because this story takes place on the island of Jersey and not mainland Europe, the love story has more believability. I wonder how a Jewish person at this time would view this situation? It is easy for me to say I am not going to be sexually aroused, attracted, or have romantic feelings for the known enemy. But, I am not living in “their” shoes. I am not experiencing this type of situation. And, The Girl From the Channel Islands has not helped me to understand the situation. This is the first reason why I have given this book an okay rating. I am not convinced at their situation, feelings, or plight. I could care less. I care about Hedy. I care about the people of Jersey. I care about what is going on in mainland Europe. I care about what is happening with the Jews. I care about Hedy’s parents and sister. Hedy’s romantic partner is Kurt. I don’t care how cute Kurt is-he is the enemy. I don’t care if he is a little bit of a Nazi. It is nice that he helped Hedy. He is still a Nazi. He is still the enemy.

I love the descriptions of the island, town, and the people. This is a strong feature of the book.

In one brief description of Hedy she is described as a “a pale skinny girl.” She has blonde hair. Her eyes are large. The “color of the sea.” Her description shows me she is vulnerable, but has lovely features. She is some what of a loner. I don’t feel that I really know her as a character. There is little information given about her background. She is not someone who stands out. However, she is the main character. This is a second reason why this book is an okay rating in my view. Her character is not developed.

Hedy works in a minor role of resistance. It is so minor I have forgotten exactly what she was doing. This point is disappointing. Especially since I cannot remember.

Themes in the story: romance, perseverance, loyalty, courage, bravery, kindness, good and evil, survival, peace and war, resistance, trust, temptation, self-control, and hope.