Disclaimer: War on the Margins was given to me free in exchange for an honest review
Synopsis (from Amazon)
France has just fallen to the Nazis. Britain is under siege. As BBC bulletins grow more and more bleak, residents of Jersey abandon their homes in their thousands. When the Germans take over, Marlene Zimmer, a shy clerk at the Aliens Office, must register her friends and neighbours as Jews while concealing her own heritage, until eventually she is forced to flee. Layers of extraordinary history unfold as we chart Marlene’s transformation from unassuming office worker to active Resistance member under the protection of Surrealist artists Claude Cahun and Marcel Moore, who manage to find poetry in the midst of hardship and unimaginable danger. Drawn from authentic World War II documents, broadcasts and private letters, ‘War on the Margins’ tells the unforgettable story of the deepening horror of the Nazi regime in Jersey and the extraordinary bravery of those who sought to subvert it.
Well it certainly has taken me a long time to read this book considering it has less than 250 pages. Part of this is because I’ve been ill and have had no concentration for any reading at all (even facebook was taxing at times!), and partly because I had real trouble getting into it. I was really hoping to like this one. I enjoy historical fiction focused around this time and started reading it when I was in primary school. This one sounded like it would have a good balance of historical fact and story, plus I hadn’t read anything set in Jersey before so was interested to see what the UK was like during occupation. I must say on the second point I did get my wish and the book gave me a good sense of what it was like to be in an occupied country. However I felt the novel read more like a history book than a story, you could really tell that it started off as Cone’s masters dissertation. I didn’t feel particularly connected to the characters, I didn’t care much about what happened to them, although I was (highlight for spoiler) happy when Lucy and Susanne’s sentence was lowered.
I didn’t really like Lucy and Susanne, I found them kind of fake. Like they were purposely trying to be ‘different’. Although I did admire their action.
I did however like the authentic documents included in this novel. It backed up what Cole was writing and gave a security with what to take as fact that isn’t given in most other historical fiction.
Overall there are probably better history books, and there is better historical fiction, but you wouldn’t do badly with this.