Sharon Maas comes to the blog with a story from World War II, and one young woman trying to make a change in the outcome in
The Soldier’s Girl
Sybil, her sister Elena, and mother are first encountered in their trip to France after her father’s suicide and financial ruin. Staying with a school friend of her mother’s at a successful vineyard, Sybil and Elena find a new joy in life, time to heal and recover from their grief and simply be children. But, after arriving in some 5 or 6 years earlier, rumblings of war and their mother’s need to move on and build a life of her own sees them returned to England and torn from the place they’ve come to love. Sybil actually remembers no other home but the chateau in Alsace, and never actually feels as if she’s found her ‘home’ in England. But, with a mother who has first-hand experience of not having a way to support herself without a man, her daughters are encouraged to find a career and be independent: with her sister working as a bilingual secretary, Sybil goes into nursing and gets first-hand experience of what is now the second World War through her patients and work.
Having had their time in France, both sisters speak French and Alsatian (a dialect peculiar to the region) as well as Austrian-accented German from early years with their Grandmother, each is poised perfectly to be useful to the Brits in the war. But, it is Sybil that SOE (Special Operations) seeks out, this branch of the government responsible for supporting and infiltrating occupied territories with trained operatives, bringing training and weapons to Resistance fighters as well as being eyes on the ground for the government through radio communique. Sybil is recruited and, because of her ability to speak German, French and Alsatian, set as the lone operative in Colmar, given orders to disrupt, report and above all, provide the local loosely organized Resistance group with funds, weapons and know-how.
Maas did a lovely job in explaining the questions that plagued Sybil, how she sheds identities and maintains a cover (with all of the associated determination to defeat the “Boche”), but while Sybil is not the most skilled, it also brought forward the tension that was rampant, and must have been a source of great worry for the people who actually did this job. Her reunion with Jacques, a childhood friend and love and his knowledge of the area with the determination to push the Germans out while doing the most damage possible could be detrimental to her cover and mission, and the feelings developed for Jacques prove to be a source of contention when, as per orders and remit, she is ‘courted’ by a German officer. Questions about Sybil’s kindness and compassion, and her ability to see her patients without labels of enemy were a concern when interviewing, and these questions again resurface with the arrival and the budding relationship with the German. An engagement, hours spent as she cultivates his trust and passes on the information he shares is her job, almost blown when a ham-fisted attempt to ‘come clean’ and ‘flip’ his loyalties ends tragically, and the resultant guilt for her is a weight, one she can’t shake. I can’t help but notice that the region of Alsace and the development of characters, Sybil included, was a bit thin -but as a story that entertains and allows a sense of the bravery, determination and constant tension that occupied citizens, let alone those working against the Germans faced. I just wanted to see characters breathing in the corners, capturing my heart and breath while walking those paths of danger, and it never quite managed to reach those levels.
Title: The Soldier's Girl
Author: Sharon Maas
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romantic Elements, Setting: France, World War II
Published by: Bookouture
Published on: 2 November, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
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France 1944. An English Nurse. A German Soldier. A tragic love affair …
English girl Sibyl Lake arrives in Colmar, a small French town, surrounded by vineyards and swarming with German soldiers. Trained as a nurse, Sibyl has been recruited as a British Agent to support the French Resistance.
When Sibyl’s work leads her to her childhood sweetheart Jacques, she is overjoyed. But their happy reunion is shortlived as it is not just Jacques’ eye that Sibyl has caught …
Commander Wolfgang von Haagan is very taken with the attractive English stranger, and Sibyl realises that she can help her own country by listening to the secrets of this soldier’s heart. As she grows closer to Wolfgang she gets to know the man behind the uniform and despite her best intentions, soon she is caught in a terrible love triangle.
And when Jacques finds that Sibyl is involved with the enemy, he is determined to prove himself to her with one last act of heroism. An act that will put all of their lives into terrible danger ….
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.