Last summer I read a book by Tracy Groot about the Confederate prison camp for Yankees, Andersonville, and I was not the same when I finished. There are certain authors who, when I read their compelling stories of actual historical events, make me angry that I never learned these things in history class.
Her latest book, Maggie Bright, gave me the same reaction. (Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book through the Tyndale Blog Network in exchange for my review.)
In all fairness to history teachers everywhere, there is only so much of history that can be covered in a semester or a year. How do you choose what’s important? So, I’m all the more grateful to writers of historical fiction who bring little-known stories into a place of greater prominence.
Maggie Bright tells the story of the evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. How the British army was surrounded on the shores of France and bombarded–literally–on the beaches and in the Channel as they tried to retreat. And how civilian sailors came to the aid of the British navy to evacuate the troops, at the risk of their own lives.
It’s the kind of story that gives me goosebumps, as any good story of sacrifice and a banding together of a group of citizens usually does. Maggie Bright is a fictional boat that answers the call.
The book is a great work of fiction in that Groot wastes no pages with long backstory or explanation. Readers are dropped right into the story and have to figure out how these storylines are connected. There is Clare Childs, owner of the Maggie Bright, who is set on figuring out what a thief was after when he broke into her boat-turned-bed-and-breakfast. And there is Jamie Elliott, who is tasked with escorting a mentally damaged captain who quotes Milton from the interior of France to Dunkirk. The latter part reminded me of Band of Brothers at times as these soldiers made their way to the coast with the hope of rescue.
Groot creates colorful and memorable characters through dialogue and mannerisms. The Milton angle on the captain was both amusing and challenging. And the American illustrator Murray Vance, who shows up in England to bail his friend out of jail, sticks out among the more refined British characters.
I loved everything about this book. If you’re a fan of World War II fiction, this is a must-read. It’s unlike any other story from that era I’ve read.