Clare Cannon's Reviews > Violins of Autumn

Violins of Autumn by Amy McAuley
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's review
Jun 02, 2012

liked it
bookshelves: young-adult
Read from July 02 to 05, 2012

It was interesting to read this alongside Code Name Verity. Both stories recount the life of a courageous female Allied spy in France during WWII, but if one were to compare them Verity is a brutal, worst-case-scenario account of the spy's interrogation and collapse, while Violins is a heroic story seen through teen-romance tinted glasses.

Undoubtedly some research has nourished the plot: we learn about part of the Resistance movement in France, the conditions of civilians and spies in Paris, and the theory behind the Resistance attacks on strategic German operations. The scant detail does make it feel more like 'story-book' war than the real thing, and the historical fiction is heavily counterbalanced with a contemporary teen narrative where the 'ordinary but attractive' seventeen year old spy - who has never before been in love - finds romance with not one, but two very different Allied men.

The serious events that do occur are not exactly glossed over but are somewhat softened, and the moral uncertainty of the protagonist in different situations is fairly easily overcome and then forgotten about. Though she does suffer and everything does not turn out well, overall the book shows the presence of a benevolent author who is able to arrange things quite nicely.

Yet though the story is not extremely deep, it is balanced and goes beyond superficial, and for teens who rarely venture beyond romantic chic-lit it could be a good introduction to slightly more serious historical fiction. To use it as a springboard to discuss the ethics and practices of war it would only serve as an introduction, and especially for older teens, would need to be supplemented with further material.
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