Mary Yarde's Reviews > The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance

The Darkest Hour by Roberta Kagan
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it was amazing

There were those who refused to bow down to tyranny, but not all of them wore uniforms. Some of them were ordinary people from different walks of life. These brave few risked everything, including their lives and the lives of those they loved. Some acts of defiance were small — chalking the letter “V” onto walls. Others, hid those who were persecuted. A few took up arms, and they died fighting for their country, for their compatriots, and for themselves. These men, woman and sometimes children are known by a collective name. They were called The Resistance.

The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance has brought together some of the finest World War II Historical Fiction authors. These authors have donated their time and their skills to bring about this remarkable collection of short stories about The Resistance. All proceeds from the sale of this book go to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC.

From the fall of Czechoslovak to the occupation of China, The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance is a compelling account of those who chose not to surrender, but to fight on, no matter what the consequences.

I am going to approach this review the same way I approached the book — one story at a time.

Bubbe’s Nightingale by Roberta Kagan

Bubbe Ruchel never talked about the past. However, Bubbe is suffering from dementia, and she does not want her story to be forgotten.

Kagan approached this story with great sensitivity and grace. The brutality of the Warsaw Ghetto was vivid in the telling, but so was the determination of The Jewish Resistance.

Bubbe is a superb heroine. She lost everything, her world was turned upside down, but she approached the future with resilience and courage. Running alongside the hardship and terror of the Ghetto is a sweet but tragic love story, which made this tale even more heartbreakingly beautiful.

Kegan has given a sense of what the Warsaw Ghetto was like, and with the limited word count, she has made a very informed choice of what to include and what not to. Reading about the atrocious treatment of the Jews during World War II can sometimes overwhelm, but in Bubbe’s Nightingale, there is a good balance between the terrible barbarities and the quieter, gentler moments of everyday life. There is also a sweet love story, which gives some light relief. This was a great novel to start the anthology with.

Catriona’s War by Jean Grainger

Catriona McCarthy’s father, Kieran, told her to wait for his return. Only he didn’t come back. No one knows what has happened to him, just that the enemy has captured him and in all likelihood he is dead. If that were not enough for Catriona to get her head around, she is now being asked by the British if she will continue what her father started.

What a wonderfully compelling tale Catriona’s War is. I adored Catriona. She is such a strong woman who seemed to relish being thrown into the deep end. Her relationship with Schroeder, a German officer, was incredibly enthralling. I thought her portrayal was magnificent.

The story was fast-paced and the narrative was clear and concise. The ending was more than satisfying. An enjoyable read.

Reluctant Informer by Marion Kummerow

Sabine Mahler believes that if she minds her own business, then the feared Gestapo will leave her and her family alone. However, that all changed the day Frau Klausen became her new co-worker.

Reluctant Informer is a compelling but also a harrowing account of one woman’s fight to save her husband. This story demonstrates not only the brutality of the Gestapo but also the risks that The Resistance took to thwart them.

As a character, I thought Sabine was wonderfully portrayed. She really is caught between a rock and a hard place. I found myself thinking, what I would do if I had been her? Each page turn had me holding my breath, wondering what new horrors would await her. The writing was absolutely absorbing.

Kummerow certainly has a remarkable eye for historical detail. This was such a great story. I cannot praise Reluctant Informer enough.

Killing the Hangman by Ellie Midwood

The Man With The Iron Heart — that is what Hitler called him. The Czech’s called him by a different name — The Hangman. When Jozef and Jan received their orders, they know what they have to do. They have to assassinate Reinhard Heydrich.

I am a big fan of Ellie Midwood’s writing, and I am glad to say that she did not disappoint. Her portrayal of Heydrich was chilling. Here was a man who radiated power and terrorised everyone, including those who worked with him. He answered only to Hitler, Göring and Himmler, and was one of the principal architects of the Holocaust. Midwood has painted one of the darkest figures within the Nazi elite very well.

Midwood has based her story around Operation Anthropoid, and the two soldiers who carried out the assignation attempt of Heydrich have been immortalised in this book. I thought Midwood’s depiction of Jozef Gabčík and Jan Kubiš was outstanding. What these men were asked to do was incredibly dangerous, one could say suicidal. I thought the contrast between the antagonist, Heydrich, and the protagonists, Jozef and Jan, was brilliantly executed.

There is no doubt that Midwood has a novelist eye for human detail and fragility, and she always writes such crystalline prose, making her work a real pleasure to read. Killing the Hangman is an excellent addition to this fabulous anthology.

The Moon Chaser by Alexa Kang

When the Japanese raped Nanking, Yuan Wen-Ying was determined to avenge her countryman. However, it will be no easy task, and it will come at a great personal cost.

Kang has a visceral understanding of what makes history worth reading. The Moon Chaser was a compelling read from start to finish. To fit such a fabulous story in such a limited word count is indeed worthy of mention. The Moon Chaser is a gripping account of the Resistance in China.

Yuan Wen-Ying is a fabulous heroine. She is a very intelligent young woman who has suffered an immense personal loss. Yuan Wen-Ying is the type of protagonist that inspires sympathy. This was a spectacular portrayal of a character that I really came to care about.

The writing is elegant. The narrative is engaging. What a wonderfully brilliant story.

Enemy at the Gate by Mary D. Brooks

At thirteen years old, Zoe had no notion that one day she would be a part of The Resistance. However, fate plays a cruel hand, and now Zoe is determined to free as many Jews as she can.

Zoe is a headstrong protagonist that sometimes does things before she fully thinks about the consequences, which made her very endearing. How she survives, I have no idea. She certainly has her share of near-misses! Zoe considers herself a Spartan, and she models herself on that idea of fearlessness — and boy, does she hate those Athenians — almost as much as the Italians! She is a very refreshing character. Zoe’s anger at the injustice she witnesses and her desire to free her country makes her a very convincing patriot.

Brooks has delivered a very plausible account about the occupation of Greece. The narrative was brilliant, and this short-story is an example of historical fiction at its very best. Enemy at the Gate is undoubtedly an enthralling tale.

The Occupation by Deborah Swift.

It was a sad day for the Islanders when the German Army invaded. Many of the Islanders had left before the occupation, but there had only been limited space on the boats. Céline Huber and her best friend Rachel were two of the unlucky ones. The German invasion of Jersey brought about many changes and sacrifices, but the one thing Céline would not sacrifice was her friend, despite what that may mean for her.

How I loved this book! The Channel Island’s hold a special place in my heart and this book captures the spirit and the endurance of these remarkable Islanders. Céline’s story is utterly compelling. Her bravery sums up many of those in occupied countries during this time. There was no way she was going to give up her Jewish friend to the Nazis. She would rather die than do that. The antagonist of this tale, the cruel and sadistic Horst, was in direct contrast to Céline’s gentle nature. The fact that Horst is Céline’s brother-in-law makes the contrast even more evident, especially when compared to his brother. The young German doctor, Leutnant Müller is also worthy of mention. He is an unlikely protagonist. His compassion is certainly noteworthy, and his disgust at the way Horst treats the prisoners of war is a reminder that not all German soldiers bought into Nazi ideology.

Swift writes with an elegance as well as with authority. I thought it was a fabulous portrayal of what Jersey was like under the long five years of occupation. Kudos, Ms Swift.

Code Name Camille by Kathryn Gauci

Nathalie Fontaine is determined to join La Résistance in Paris. Paris is a city under occupation. No one is to be out past curfew, and German soldiers can stop and search anyone, any time they choose. Nathalie immerses herself in Parisian culture while working for La Résistance. However, something soon becomes very clear. There is a double agent in their midst. The question is… Who?

Code Name Camille was impossible to put down. I was utterly immersed and committed to this story from the opening sentence to the very last word. This is a vastly entertaining tale, with a very compelling plot. When it became evident that there was a double-agent I was trying to guess as to who that was — it turned out I was wrong!

Gauci has written an extremely readable tale. Great Characters. Great narrative. Great Story.

V for Victory by John R McKay

When Charles Mercier sees the victorious German Army march along the Champs-Élysées he decides that when he grows up, he is going to join the German Army, after all, he cannot join the French one, can he? However, after an inspiring speech by his teacher, Charles is reminded that he is a son of France. With some stolen chalk, young Charles is determined to do his bit. He will go out at night and chalk the letter “V” onto buildings and monuments. Vive la France.

Mckay has penned a lucid account of what life was like in occupied France from a child’s perspective. Charles was a character that matured as the story progressed. He is incredibly naive at the beginning. Charles does not understand the consequences of his actions. He thinks he might have a telling off for scribbling on the wall. He does not even consider that he could receive a bullet instead. Likewise, he doesn’t understand why they can’t listen to the radio anymore.

Mckay has a beautiful eye for detail and a compelling style to his narrative. He writes with imagination and energy which made V for Victory utterly engrossing. I thought it was fabulous.

Sound of Resistance by Ryan Armstrong

When Charlie’s mother is killed in a car accident, he has no idea just how much his life is going to change. He finds himself in Germany, under the care of his sadistic uncle. Charlie is an American. He does not hold with Nazi ideology. However, he has to tread carefully, for his uncle is a man not to be crossed.

Sound of Resistance is a gripping account of courage under impossible circumstances. Charlie is a wonderful protagonist to pit against his evil uncle. Charlie sees Erich for what he really is — a bully and a coward. However, at the same time, Armstrong explores Erich’s motivation for acting the way he does. Erich seems to have a conscious. He only sleeps three hours a day so one can only surmise that he doesn’t sleep because of what he does. Erich cannot get through a day without taking what he calls “magic pills.” It seems there is a lot more to him, then initially meets the eye, I would like to learn more about him. Nevertheless, he is still deplorable, and a thoroughly disagreeable man.

The narrative of this tale is very engaging and I was utterly engrossed in this story of good vs. evil.

The Darkest Hour: WWII Tales of Resistance is a beautiful book that you can start either at the beginning and read through to the end, or read one or two of the stories that take your fancy. Each book has a short synopsis at the beginning which gives you an idea of the flavour of the tale that is to follow. I recommend that you read them all for they are all wonderful. If you are looking for a lovely scope of Resistant stories, then this is the book for you.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

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Reading Progress

December 18, 2018 – Shelved
December 18, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
January 2, 2019 – Started Reading
January 3, 2019 –
January 3, 2019 –
January 4, 2019 –
January 5, 2019 –
January 7, 2019 – Finished Reading

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Marion Kummerow Thank you Mary Yarde, I feel honored to receive such a glowing review :-)

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