[Review] D-Day Girls: The Spies Who Armed the Resistance, Sabotaged the Nazis, and Helped Win World War II by Sarah Rose

Publisher and Publication Date: Crown Publishing. April 23, 2019.
Genre: Nonfiction. History. Resistance in France during World War II. Espionage. Women in literature.
Pages: 394. I counted every written page. From pages 289 to 394 is Acknowledgements, Notes, Bibliography, Index, and About the Author.
Format: Hardcover. Library binding.
Source: Public library.
Audience: World War II history readers, especially those with an interest in the Resistance work in France.
Rating: Very good.

Author page @ Goodreads for Sarah Rose.
Website/ Twitter.

Summary:

A character chart is located before the first chapter. The characters are Andrée Borrel, Lise de Baissac, Odette Sansom, Yvonne Rudellat, Mary Herbert, Francis Suttill, Gilbert Norman, Peter Churchill, Claude de Baissac. In addition, I noted other characters: Hélène Aron, Andre Girard, Major Karl Bömelburg, André Marsac, and Phyllis Latour.

Beginning in 1940, England recruited 39 women to train for various spy work in a new government agency called the Special Operations Executive or SOE. These women were recruited because most young men were busy in military service. These women were from all walks of life. They spoke French. They were all trained with knowledge and abilities to carry out specific spy and espionage work in France. Some examples of the work are radio operators and sabotage efforts.

The inside flap cover of the book mentions Sarah Rose used extensive research for the book, including “recent declassified files.”

Odette Sansom was recruited in 1942. Her story has been written about in other books I’ve read, and she is a defining character in D-Day Girls.

The book begins in 1942, and the climax will be during the D-Day invasion of Normandy beaches in France.

My Thoughts:

I’ve mentioned this before, but World War II history is one of my favorite subjects to read. It doesn’t matter if it’s nonfiction or fiction. I like all of them. I’ve read children to adult books in this subject.

The principal reason I love this genre is my dad was a veteran in World War II. He was a veteran of Omaha Beach, D-Day, June 6, 1944.

I stood on that beach with dad and other family members in the fall of 1999. Dad reminisced about that event. It was then I realized his story was no longer a story told in bits and pieces at the dinner table. His story was real. Violent. Historical. Memorable.

Several reasons why I love D-Day Girls:

  1. There is no fluffy stuff in the book. What I mean is the book delivers exactly what the inside flap summarized about the book. The women involved in the SOE work in France in the two years before the D-Day invasion. Fluffy is added material in a book that creates a larger and longer work with information not necessarily pertaining to the main topic.
  2. No one character is in the spotlight. The work they all did as a whole is explored and studied and recreated for the reader.
  3. I’m amazed at the courage, bravery, ingenuity and savvy nature of all of them. Even one of the last characters in the book who is suggested as not that bright is a person of determination.
  4. I saw one of the most important traits of a spy, to be one step ahead of the enemy. To think and plan and be one step ahead of them.
  5. A baby is difficult to hide. In one person’s case it is a double blessing for them.
  6. D-Day Girls is a concise, panoramic view, and engaging read.

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[Review] Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story from Tennessee Eagle Scout to General Montgomery’s “Flying Fortress” by Colonel Richard Ernest Evans and Barbara Evans Kinnear

Publisher and Publication Date: Kieran Publishing. July 3, 2021.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography. War memoir.
Pages: 508.
Format: Large Paperback. 8×10 size.
Source: I received a complimentary copy from Books Forward and Barbara Kinnear. I am not required to write a positive review.
Audience: Readers of war memoirs.
Rating: Excellent.

Site for the book: Richard Eager.

Twitter/ Facebook/ Instagram

A write-up about the book is located in the Knoxville Daily Sun.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

Summary:

Barbara Kinnear and her late father’s debut release, Richard Eager: A Pilot’s Story from Tennessee Eagle Scouts to General Montgomery’s “Flying Fortress” (July 3, 2021, Kieran Publishing Company) showcases the humanity and personalities of war heroes in a charming biography. The family of U.S. Air Force veteran, Richard Earnest Evans, has preserved his history in a captivating new book. A detailed account of the golden age of aviation, spanning the 1930’s to the 1960’s, told through the firsthand stories of beloved son, brother and father and heroic pilot, Colonel Richard Ernest Evans.

A bet between WWII commanders. An Eagle Scout from Tennessee assigned to pilot one of the greatest leaders of the Allied Forces. This is the story of how young Captain Richard Evans became the B-17 “Flying Fortress” pilot for Field Marshal Bernard L. Montgomery, Commander of the British 8th Army, during missions throughout North Africa and Italy.

My Thoughts:

My first thought is this book targets a specific group of readers because not all readers will want to read detailed information about flight details, the mechanics of flying, and military words. For me, I enjoy reading war memoirs. I enjoy reading a story I’ve not heard before.

Second, the book shares stories of Richard Eager as a child growing up and personal details of life as a family man. The book is not completely chronological in time. As far as his military experiences it follows chronological time, but he reminisces in whole chapters about his childhood.

Richard Eager’s personality is displayed in his writing style. He is matter of fact, determined, confident, detailed, and freely expresses himself. He has a keen sense of humor.

The story is told from Richard’s voice. He is the narrator.

This is a large paperback filled with both story, and black and white photographs of people and maps. I want to mention this because it’s a chunkster size book.

The dedication of the book (located in the opening) is memorable.

I believe this is a splendid war memoir!

[Review] Survivors Club: The True Story of a Very Young Prisoner of Auschwitz by Michael Bornstein and Debbie Bornstein Holinstat

Publisher and Publication Date: Farrar, Straus and Giroux/Square Fish. March 7, 2017.
Genre: Nonfiction. Biography. Memoir.
Pages: 352.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Young adult nonfiction.
Rating: Excellent!

Link @ Amazon.
Link @Audible.
Link @ Barnes and Noble.

There are several YouTube videos with Michael or his daughter Debbie who are co-authors of the book. These are two I’ve shared.

Summary:

On January 27, 1945, the Russians liberated Auschwitz. Of the 2,819 prisoners, 52 were children under the age of eight. Michael Bornstein was one of those children.
Michael, with the help of his daughter, Debbie, has documented this narrative style account. He felt his story needed to be shared about this traumatic event. He did not want to remain silent on what happened to him, his family, and the Jewish people during the Holocaust.

The story begins in October 1939 when the Germans invaded Zarki, Poland. Michael’s family lived in a home in Zarki. Michael’s older brother, Samuel, is age four. Michael will be born in May of 1940.

Michael’s parents are Israel and Sophie Bornstein. There are several family members who live in the Zarki area. For a while, they are able to continue living in their home, later, they will be resettled, and then, transported to Auschwitz.

In this story, the focus is on his family but shares the chronological history of what happened to the Jews in Zarki, and in great detail the hellish life in Auschwitz.

My Thoughts:

I have read a lengthy list of memoirs of the Holocaust. It is rare to read an account through the lens or perspective of a small child. This brings a unique nature to the story. I believe, Survivors Club, is in the top five books I’ve read of Holocaust memoirs because of the unique structure and feel to the story. Michael was born during the Holocaust. He was an innocent babe in peril at his first breath.

Other reasons why this is an excellent book.

1. A detailed chronological timeline of the events happening in Zarki, Poland, starting in October 1939. This is not a sterile type of account, but deeply personal.

2. Most Holocaust stories that share the experiences in Auschwitz do not share thoughts and daily life in great detail. What I mean is Michael shares perspectives and thoughts not usually shared. For example, on pages 126-127, “Men who reached for suitcases that weren’t there.” “Women reached for children who had been pulled from their grip.” My takeaway is the shock of what is happening has not registered yet in their brain that the item or beloved person is no longer there. This is startling, shocking, and a surreal moment. This illustration is one of many that caused me to pause and ponder.

3. Further events in the book: the processing of the prisoners, the work details, the bathhouse, Mengele’s selection of children, the infirmary, the “Death March” out of Auschwitz, liberation, and rebuilding a life afterwards. The story is a solid view Michael’s life and what he has experienced.

4. Thirty-six illustrations. Most are in black and white, a few are in color.

5. A glossary is included

6. Notes on their research is included.

7. In the preface, the authors explain what has been pieced together through research, interviews, and memories (factual), and what they have constructed (conversations and emotions.) I love it when the author lets me know what is factual and what has been pieced together in the story.

Themes: war, survival, grief, intolerance, hope, resistance, suffering, sacrifice, family honor, good and evil, fear, heroism, power of love, courage, and bravery.

Survivors Club is a powerful story. It is an important story. It is a story I will not forget.

And, considering the events happening in the Ukraine, this story is more than just a memory, both remind us that evil exists. We cannot ignore, we cannot take a nap thinking this will all be over when we wake up. This story makes me feel firm in my convictions that freedom is important; and a huge part of that freedom is the ability to have free speech, and to live in a humane, safe, and free society.

[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) Fragments of Isabella: A Memoir of Auschwitz by Isabella Leitner

Publisher and Publication Date: Open Road Media. 2016. First published 1978.
Genre: Nonfiction. Memoir. World War II. Holocaust.
Pages: 94.
Format: Kindle Unlimited eBook. Originally the eBook was obtained by me through NetGalley and I deleted it by accident.
Source: I am a paid member of the Kindle Unlimited program.
Audience: Readers of Holocaust memoirs.
Rating: Excellent.

Link @ Amazon: Fragments of Isabella

Further links of interest:
Mengele and the Holocaust
Encyclopedia-this site has pop-up ads
Holocaust Chronicle

The YouTube is an audio (only) recording in English of Isabella Leitner telling her story.


Summary:
May 1944.
Isabella Leitner (age 23) began her brief memoir with the day of deportation. She and her family live in Kisvárda, Hungary. They are Jews. Their father is already in America and working to get their immigration papers. After arrival at Auschwitz, Isabella and her three sisters survive the first point of selection to live. It was Mengele who selected them, but other family members were murdered.
Fragments of Isabella is a deeply emotional, compelling, and harrowing account of the “struggle to survive.”

My Thoughts:
From the first sentence, I became consumed in the pages of the personal, horrific, and raw account. I believe it might have been too much, to read a lengthy story. I read the book cover to cover in 1 sitting.

On the day of deportation, Isabella is having her period. I want you to imagine what that must have been like. The experience of being packed in a train car with 74 other humans. There isn’t a bathroom. There isn’t a place to clean-up. There isn’t a place to sit. There isn’t a place to hide. This experience alone is suffering.

Several reasons why this memoir is excellent.
1. The memoir captures the horror and despair of Auschwitz.
2. It is an eyewitness account.
3. The story is told in a chronological order of events with personal feelings and thoughts added.
4. The story highlights and documents the evil acts of Nazi brutality and murder.
5. The story explains post traumatic stress that continued to impact life.