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Assignment in Brittany

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  1,766 ratings  ·  117 reviews

Hearne looked at the unfamiliar watch on his wrist. Three hours ago he had joked with the red-haried pilot over a last cup of hot chocolate. Three hours ago he had stood on English earth. Three hours ago he had been Martin Hearne with 27 yrs of his life behind him.

Now he was Bertrand Corlay, with 26 yrs of another man's life reduced to headings an
Kindle Edition
Published January 2013 by Titan (first published 1941)
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***2018 Summer of Spies***

How is it that I have never run into Helen MacInnes before this? If I ever do another reading project featuring espionage literature, I will definitely be adding more of her work to the reading list!

The premise is an unlikely one—after a WWII battle, someone notices an injured Breton man who looks just like an active English spy. Not only does this spy Hearne uncannily resemble the disabled man, but he also speaks Breton (a pretty obscure Celtic language) and has st
Jeff Dickison
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Helen MacInnes was a major author from the 40's to the 80's. Her books were always looked forward to and were consistent best sellers. She is all but forgotten today. I read her a lot in the 60's & 70's. There is no better author of the dramatic spy novel than MacInnes. The book was published in 1940 (her second) and was made into a move in 1942 starring a French actor whose name I cannot now recall. An Englishman parachutes into Brittany to take the place of a look-alike who has fascist tendenc ...more
Scott Head
Review taken from my blog, headsfilmreviews dot com

Helen MacInnes was a remarkable woman. She was a Scots Presbyterian young lady of Glasgow (my mother's stomping grounds), degreed in French and German, a librarian, a classic German literature translator, a European traveler, an amateur actress and a wife of an MI6 British intelligence agent. She has a number of espionage thrillers to her name, and her second novel, Assignment in Brittany, reads as though she had been fully immersed in Breton cu
The first scenes of jumping into Brittany were used as training for parajumpers in the military. Great story!
May 12, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Good spy novel set in WWII
Joseph Grinton
I have been reading an old musty edition of this book, which I borrowed from a friend because it appears to be out of print. It is a spy story in which the main character impersonates a Frenchman, whom he resembles, and takes up residence at his home in Brittany. The Frenchman's mother is shortsighted and much is made of this -- unncessarily, in my view. I am also shortsighted and I am absolutely sure that very little of the information we use to recognise people is visual. Many great stories in ...more
Jun 28, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though my 1967 DELL paperback copy calls this book a "haunting novel of romance and suspense" on its front cover, it is most definitely a dyed-in-the-wool spy novel. Because the copy was given to me in a box of books, I persevered and read the entire 336 pages. With the book written in 1942, I thought it was interesting that Ms. Macinnes pointed out in her introduction in the reprint of the book that after WWII, she personally met veterans who tried to track down the places described in the ...more
Jan 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am headed to Brittany in May. So the title had me from the get go.
I loved reading about the old towns and kept my map handy. Unfortunately of course the smaller villages are imaginary.
But I mean to track down what I can. And the history of the Breton language is interesting.
A good old fashioned WW2 intrigue.
Samantha B
Jan 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wow. That was a lot of fun! And also very, very well written.

One of the things I love about MacInnes's writing is that it was written during WWII, and so it captures the feeling of uncertainty and everything-in-the-balance that was so prevalent during that time. I feel like a lot of WWII historical fiction feels more...certain? Or confident? This is neither, because obviously at the time, no one knew how the war would end.

I found the plot extraordinarily creative, and although I feel like Hearn
A.D. Morel
With the Nazi occupation of northern France, the underground resistance is forced to sneak about in the dark. Hearne, British soldier whose French is excellent, is sent to spy as part of that resistance, and he finds help in hiding with the beautiful Anne. Danger abounds. Action, adventure, suspense -- a gripping story here, memorable in itself and for the skill with which it is told. Helen MacInnes seems to have passed from the scene, but her spy novels are well worth looking up, and this one c ...more
Mar 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was something my husband picked up at a flea market and I expected very little from it. It turned out to be an excellent, absorbing and well-paced story. And it gave a great sense of the fear and confusion in the late days of the second world war in France, where the protagonist goes undercover to gather intelligence in occupied France.
Amy Hay
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I am a huge fan of Helen MacInnes. /Assignment in Brittany/ is one of her early works set during WWII. One thing I think MacInnes excels at is writing from the male perspective. Add in a tense espionage mission, a "Tale of Martin Guerre" case of assumed identity, and love and you have a story with real stakes. The uncertain ending just makes it especially poignant. Highly recommend! ...more
Jan 13, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Iloved that this book was written ABOUT the war DURING the war
O Babs
Jul 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: espionage
I have been re-reading Helen MacInnes novels, which were beach-reading staples as a teenager. Her work holds up very well, considering the significant changes since she wrote.

Assignment in Brittany was her second novel, set during World War II and published in 1942 -- very much of-the-moment in her day. She captures beautifully the isolation Hearne feels as he hides in occupied France and figures out what he can and cannot accomplish. The romance is a little predictable by modern standards, and
Kathryn Guare
May 17, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: riveting-retro
Oh, how I am enjoying my ramble through these old classic spy thrillers!
This is my fourth by Helen MacInnes, and what I particularly love about her is how completely she immerses the reader in the setting. Physical descriptions that are unique to the place, details of culture, history and food, particular characteristics of national/regional identity - it's like a travelogue seamlessly wrapped around the action of the plot. In this one, we get a close-up view of traditional Breton life as it was
Anna Richland
Mar 07, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018-challenge
I am on a classic thrillers of the genre kick right now (escapism?) - these early HM books are amazing. The characters and plots and writing all superb - utterly superb - and the pacing and density of the story remind me of how writing decades ago felt more meaty than a lot of similar genre fiction now. There is just no comparison between this and most modern thrillers - this is amazing.

But the thing that is always in the back of my head is the view that MacInnes, who was there in Europe in the
Susan Harrison
Nov 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
To prepare for a fiction class I recently taught, I re-read Assignment in Brittany which I had read back in the '70s. It was, as then, a wonderful read: good, old fashioned espionage. It says a great deal about a book when the major spy organizations in the UK made this book required reading for their agents. MacInnes' husband was in MI6, and her book was so well done that the government suspected her husband of revealing classified information to Helen. He had not (Tom Clancy had the same exper ...more
David Bonesteel
Helen MacInnes starts with the hoary cliche of the spy who just happens to be a dead ringer for the man he is assigned to impersonate to tell a frequently involving story that too often depends on unlikely coincidence to move the plot along. The novel is strongest when it is depicting the grim camaraderie that arises among an occupied people. I admire the way MacInnes didn't include action just for the sake of it, but nevertheless I sometimes felt that something was needed to break up the interm ...more
Kristina Pasko
Oct 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this years ago and its characters (especially the pair brought together in a strange romance) have always remained with me. Reading it now, I better appreciate the author's perception of her time -- the uncertainty of the war's trajectory in 1942 -- and now I understand the metaphor of the ending. I feel desperate for a sequel or an epilogue to learn what happened to the main characters a few years later when the war finally ended. ...more
ira marcus
Feb 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Imagination !

As I sat in my chair reading ,the room vanished and my concerns rose as I was not sure how we got into the predicament and how to get out safely. That is the beauty of the mind and the author. You are transported without any reason to the action and situations transfixed by only the use of words. Great read!
Jenna L.
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I never thought I was much of a spy/adventure reader, but I'm hooked because of Helen MacInnes. This is the third book I've read of this author and I'm sure I'll work my way through all of them....sort of like potato chips. Each of MacInnes' characters are well defined to a point where I felt personally connected with them. Suspenseful to the very end. ...more
Sep 30, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A classic spy novel set in WWII. MacInnes writes intelligently, letting the mysteries and tiny observations of human behavior drive the plot rather than complicated conspiracy motives. Drifted toward a melodramatic ending but pulled itself out in the final moments.
Mary Margaret
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a fascinating read, a real time capsule of a book! It was very informative and interesting throughout. My only complaint was that the main female characters, Anne and Elise, were very stereotypical. Slightly disappointing from a female author, but otherwise an excellent read.
Dec 30, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fascinating account of an English spy in Brittany during WWII. The attention to detail necessary to pull off impersonating a known resident of the town is astounding. Could this really happen? I don't know, but it was a page turner. ...more
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I first read this book in the late 60s or early 70s and I enjoyed it as much this time as then. The ending was a bit schlocky but the rest of the story was riveting! Glad to see an old favourite author can continue to entertain!
Mar 23, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Intersting story. It was kind of a bummer at the end.
Why must sappy endings ruin otherwise excellent sneaking-running-shooting spy novels?
Alexander Molnar
one of the best books about an undercover agent in wwii... a great story; written while WW II was ongoing in Europe.
Susan Beecher
Oct 31, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Engrossing and enjoyable spy story about a British spy in Nazi-occupied Brittany.
Dannica Zulestin
Apr 21, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: historical
Decided to take a look at my mom's stash of MacInnes. People have recommended her to me for a while. Anyways, I really liked all the adventure and suspense in this book--all the details of the little problems encountered by a man undercover or trying to cross the countryside without being seen. I also quite liked Hearne as a character, though he is somewhat a generic adventure hero, and I wonder if MacInnes' other protagonists will be similar.

But what was going on with that Anne plotline? Frankl
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Helen MacInnes was a Scottish-American author of espionage novels. She graduated from the University of Glasgow in Scotland in 1928 with a degree in French and German. A librarian, she married Professor Gilbert Highet in 1932 and moved with her husband to New York in 1937 so he could teach classics at Columbia University. She wrote her first novel, Above Suspicion, in 1939. She wrote many bestsell ...more

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