“Of Windmills and War” by Diane Moody is the story of the men of the 390th Bomb Group, Third division of the Eighth Air Force, a part of the Greatest Generation and a rescue mission called Operation Chowhound.
The story begins 1938 in Chicago, Illinois with Danny McClain instructed by his teacher to acquire a pen pal from a different country, write to him and report on any response received. Danny draws the name Hans Versteeg from the Netherlands. The two boys keep up a correspondence over quite a few years until Danny learns from Hans’ sister, Anya that he had drowned in a skating accident. Danny and Anya keep writing and learning about each other until the Germans overrun Holland and the Netherlands.
Danny’s family is very dysfunctional in that his father is a very violent opinionated man who tolerated no discussion or dissention. Mostly everyone stayed out of his way. He had made a decision that his sons would follow in his footsteps and take over his business. Of course, both Joey and Danny have other plans. Joey joins the Navy and Danny eventually joins the Air Force.
Anya, family is quite different. Her father is a minister and her mother, devastated by the death of her son, is no longer a strong woman. After the Germans invade and their Jewish friends are systematically taken away, the family hides Jewish refugees and Anya joins the Resistance movement.
The story of Danny as a co-pilot of the bog bombers and the missions they fly are as harrowing to read about as I’m sure they actually were. Anya’s life in the Resistance makes her a very strong individual with pent up emotions that she is afraid to show. When Danny is shot down over the Netherlands close to the German border, he makes contact with Anya through the Underground. The clandestine operations of the Resistance are extremely dangerous and deadly. Reading about this chapter in history is both enlightening and frightening. The story is well conceived and well written. It is one of my favorite books.
I received a complimentary digital copy of this book from NetGalley.com
“High as the Heavens” by Kate Breslin is another wonderful book set during WWI. Evelyn Marche lives in Brussels in 1917, during the German occupation. Evelyn works as Sister Nurse Marche of the Belgian Red Cross in the German hospital in Brussels, and in her uncle’s café. What most people do not know is that Evelyn is also a member of La Dame Blanche, a resistance organization. She lives with her aunt, uncle, mother and two German soldiers who are billeted in their home. Her life is fraught with danger and intrigue. Just keeping her clandestine activities secret from the Germans which whom she must work takes lots of stealth. One evening she sees a plane crash outside the city, and rushes to help. One man is dead and the other badly hurt. When she really looks at his face, she is astonished to find that it is her “dead” husband, a British Officer who perished in the first weeks of the war. She takes him to the German hospital for help and then spirits him away for safety from the Germans. Simon and Evelyn have each lived through unspeakable horrors and need to find their way back to each other and get out of the mess they are in.
Again, Ms. Breslin has written a compelling and undeniably exciting war novel. I loved this book and look forward to reading many more thrilling works by this author.
“The Girl from the Train” by Irma Joubert is one of those books that stay with you long after you’ve finished reading the last page. The story begins in April, 1944 in Poland. The Resistance had planned to blow up a troop train. But it was an unscheduled train bound for Auschwitz, taking Jewish Poles to the concentration camp that triggered the bomb first. Gretl is the only survivor of that train. Jacob Kowalski, a member of the resistance, finds Gretl, a six-year-old little girl, hiding along the roadside and feels compelled to take care of her. She just wants to go to an uncle in Switzerland. That, of course, is not possible since the Germans occupy most of Europe and travelling is exceedingly dangerous. For four years, Jacob tried to take care of Gretl. He found a group in Germany that was helping orphaned German children immigrate to South Africa to be adopted by Afrikaner families. Because rules were so strict, Gretl had to keep secret that she was Polish and Jewish. What follows is a wonderful story about love and redemption. This is the first book of Irma Joubert’s that has been translated from Afrikaans to English. I hope it won’t be the last. I enjoyed this book very much and recommend it highly.
I received a print copy of this book from BookLookBloggers.com in return for my honest review.