1947. Elinor White, known locally as ‘the White lady’, is living a solitary, quiet life in a grace-and-favour cottage in the Kent countryside. Unbeknownst to her neighbours, she is the veteran of two world wars, a trained killer and a former intelligence agent.
Yet Elinor’s private and seemingly tranquil existence conceals a past trauma that comes to the fore when she is drawn into the predicament of a local man entangled with one of the most dangerous crime families in London.
A treacherous path lies ahead, but it may be one that ultimately leads Elinor to a future unshackled by her own painful history.
Thank you so much to the wonderful Allison & Busby for gifting me a copy of The White Lady.
I’d never heard of Jaqueline Winspear before seeing this book, But I’m so glad I have now!
The White Lady is a riveting and gripping thriller set just after the second world war in the UK, in 1947. We meet Miss Elinor White, who lives a very quiet life in the countryside and keeps herself to herself- her nickname is “The White Lady”. However, she has a fabulous past – a veteran of WW1 and WW2, a trained killer and an ex-spy!
This novel starts with events in 1947 then through Elinor’s eyes we travel back in time to WW1 and her childhood when she was living in Belgium, we find out how Elinor and her family helped to fight the Germans during the first world war years before fleeing to England and then taking up arms again during WW2.
I loved The White Lady, it is written in such a way that it was an easy read. It is a bit like a girl’s own adventure with the events that Elinor White gets up to, but it is written with a nod to history and all those women who worked for or were killed working for the Special Operations Executive during the second world war. Jaqueline Winspear has managed to write a fabulous fast-paced thriller with authentic characters and the plots are brilliant, I could not put it down! The descriptions of the settings during both wars were fantastic and vividly written.
The ending is quite a climax and it’s left in such a way that I hope there will be a follow-up novel!.
A great read, thrilling and addictive – 5 stars from me.
You can follow Jaqueline Winspear on her FACEBOOK page
The day the Nazis march into Paris. It made headlines around the globe.
Paris police detective Eddie Giral – a survivor of the last World War – watches helplessly on as his world changes forever.
But there is something he still has control over. Finding whoever is responsible for the murder of four refugees. The unwanted dead, who no one wants to claim.
To do so, he must tread carefully between the Occupation and the Resistance, between truth and lies, between the man he is and the man he was.
All the while becoming whoever he must be to survive in this new and terrible order descending on his home.
My followers should know by now that I am a huge fan of WW2 historical crime fiction, I was kindly given a copy of Paris requiem by Orion Books, and before I read it, I wanted to read the first in the Eddie Giral novels by Chris Lloyd, The Unwanted Dead.
The Unwanted Dead is an absolute tour de force of a historical fiction novel. The opening chapter lets us meet our protagonist, Paris Police Detective Eddie Giral. It’s June 1940 and the Nazis have just waltzed into Paris and have taken over everything. For Eddie as a Detective in the French Police, this now means that he is working for the Nazis… however this does not sit well with him!
In The Unwanted Dead the reader is taken back in time into an immersive novel that is extraordinary in how it depicts life during the occupation of Paris. Eddie Giral is a fantastic character who I instantly grew to like – his use of sarcastic humour and comments to Nazi Officers had me laughing out loud! Chris Lloyd has managed to write with such realism that I really felt I was actually there by Eddies side during this complex but unputdownable thriller. The plot and storyline are exquisite and I can quite see why The Unwanted Dead won the HWA Gold Crown Award for Historical Fiction. To be able to transport the reader to another time is a real feat and to make it during the WW2 occupation in France is just brilliant.
I loved The Unwanted Dead and raced through it, it’s a great storyline and the plot is tense and vividly written! I especially liked how we got inside Eddie Girals mind and found out how he really felt trying to do his Detective job under increasing interference from his Nazi oppressors.
If you like WW2 fictional thrillers then I urge you to buy The Unwanted Dead, Im looking forward to reading the next in the series – Paris Requiem.
An extraordinary portrait of life at the heart of Heinrich Himmler’s court at the heart of the Nazi Regime.
In 1938, before the outbreak of the Second World War, Dr Felix Kersten an avuncular Finnish physician was introduced to Heinrich Himmler, the chief architect of the Holocaust. Seemingly the only person who could cure Himmler of his crippling stomach cramps, Kersten worked on Himmler’s vanity and gratitude Kersten to save the lives of thousands of people and was celebrated across Europe, culminating in Joseph Kessel’s 1961 bestseller, The Man with Miraculous Hands.
And yet, Kersten’s historical legacy is not flawless, and a new introduction by bestselling author Norman Ohler deals with the historical legacy of Kersten’s more exaggerated claims and asks directly why a man who had done so much good would risk damaging that reputation.
Soon to be a major motion picture starring Woody Harrelson, The Man with Miraculous Hands is an extraordinarily revealing portrayal of the deranged atmosphere in Himmler’s court where paranoia and vicious rivalries reigned. Shedding a new light on the darkest days of the twentieth century, the story of Kersten’s life gives us a new way of viewing the history of the Second World War, one that goes beyond the simple idea of heroes and villains.
Hugest thanks to Elliott & Thompson for sending me a copy to review, I’m extremely grateful.
This book utterly blew my mind! It is the absolutely astonishing true story of Dr Felix Kersten, a Finnish Physician, who was introduced to Heinrich Himmler and was able to treat Himmler’s chronic stomach disorder throughout the Second World War in Germany.
Dr Felix Kersten was a rotund, gentle man who learnt his kraft of Chinese Style massage from Dr Ko, who took him on as a student because he saw the potential in his hands. He studied under him and inherited his practice and became a very sought-after Dr, who could cure all ailments with his miraculous hands.
The book reads like a thriller and had me absolutely gripped, I just could not put it down – the fact that I had never heard this story and how this mild-mannered, polite and jovial Dr Kersten managed to treat Himmler and then, in Himmler’s most vulnerable moments when he was in so much pain, and the only person that could alleviate that pain was Kersten, Dr Kersten was able to manipulate Himmler by playing to his ego, and in doing so saved the lives of many thousands of Jews and other prisoners. he was able to document his meetings with the Reichsfuhrer, and keep them so that in the years after the war Joseph Kessel met him and questioned him about these interactions that happened right in the Devils lair, inside Nazi Germany, indeed inside SS headquarters. And as I’ve said the tale is absolutely extraordinary!
The Man With The Miraculous Hands is an exceptionally well-written book, and I loved the way it felt like a thriller, the tension I felt reading about the events with Himmler and Dr Kersten and the goings on inside Nazi Germany, the thinking of one of the most heinous men in history – Himmler and all the paranoia that was felt by him and Dr Kersten, reads so well – when you think it’s true it is almost mind-blowing!
I have to rate this book with 5 stars, I really like reading about both World Wars and find novels or factual accounts from the German side very interesting. I whizzed through this book in a couple of days! If you like to learn about historical facts and are interested in WW2 this will be a must-read for you.
You can buy The Man With The Miraculous Hands HERE
You can find more books at Elliott & Thompson’s website HERE
BERLIN. JANUARY 1941. Evil cannot bring about good . . .
After Germany’s invasion of Poland, the world is holding its breath and hoping for peace. At home, the Nazi Party’s hold on power is absolute.
One freezing night, an SS doctor and his wife return from an evening mingling with their fellow Nazis at the concert hall. By the time the sun rises, the doctor will be lying lifeless in a pool of blood.
Was it murder or suicide? Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke is told that under no circumstances should he investigate. The doctor’s widow, however, is convinced her husband was the target of a hit. But why would anyone murder an apparently obscure doctor? Compelled to dig deeper, Schenke learns of the mysterious death of a child. The cases seem unconnected, but soon chilling links begin to emerge that point to a terrifying secret.
Even in times of war, under a ruthless regime, there are places in hell no man should ever enter. And Schenke fears he may not return alive . . .
Thank you so much to Jess Hunt from Ransom PR for inviting me to the Dead Of Night blog tour and sending me a copy of the book.
As I knew Dead Of Night was book 2 in the Berlin Wartime Series by Simon Scarrow, I decided to read Blackout ( book 1 ) first. And I’m so glad I did, as Blackout is a fantastic opener to the Kripo Inspector Horst Schenke series.
The story for Dead Of Night is set during the coldest of winters January/February 1940… and from the first page, the reader knows they are in for a thrilling read amongst the politics, in-house fighting, and mistrust of Berlin during the early days of WW2 and the rise in Nazism.
The way that Simon Scarrow writes is utterly compelling, he’s like my favorite History Teacher, because although Dead Of Night is a work of fiction, it is based on truth, and in his exceptional style, taught me to look at how working and living in Berlin under the threat of Hitler and his SS henchmen when one is just trying to do one’s job, becomes a minefield of difficulty. In our protagonist, Criminal Inspector Horst Schenke, we have a man who cannot fight due to an injury sustained whilst racing for the famous Silver Arrows Racing Team, so he has risen to the rank of Criminal Inspector with the Kripos, and he loves his job, and just wants to keep fighting the criminals, murderers and rapists and make sure they are caught and punished….sounds simple right? But during wartime in Berlin, nothing is simple, no one trusts one another, and Horst finds himself embroiled in a case that he has been warned off investigating, and when he continues to do so puts himself and those he cares about in grave danger.
I’m not going to give any more of the plot away, but let’s just say the speed of Dead Of Night and the storyline, are thrilling and utterly gripping, you will not be able to put it down. It also had me heading across to Google on several occasions to find out more about topics and people ( there are real Nazis in the books ) so as to add to the story.
If you haven’t read Blackout before you start Dead of Night, I would urge you to – it runs closely after the storyline in Blackout and several characters as important to the storyline and plot in Dead Of Night.
I loved Dead Of Night so much, and am a firm fan of The Berlin Wartime series by Simon Scarrow, I actually feel utterly sad now I’ve finished Dead Of Night! And that, my friends, is the sign of a superb book!
If you like thrillers and Police Procedurals set during WW2, then Dead Of Night is definitely for you, the research Simon Scarrow puts into his work makes for such a visceral and realistic read, and it’s refreshing to have a different point of view with a Police Inspector who is German.
An easy 5-star rating for Dead Of Night and also for Blackout. I cannot wait for book 3!
Simon Scarrow is a Sunday Times No. 1 bestselling author with several million copies of his books sold worldwide. After a childhood spent travelling the world, he pursued his great love of history as a teacher, before becoming a full-time writer. His Roman soldier heroes Cato and Macro made their debut in 2000 in UNDER THE EAGLE and have subsequently appeared in many bestsellers in the Eagles of the Empire series, including CENTURION, INVICTUS and DAY OF THE CAESARS. Many of the series have been Sunday Times bestsellers.
Simon Scarrow is also the author of a quartet of novels about the lives of the Duke of Wellington and Napoleon Bonaparte, YOUNG BLOODS, THE GENERALS, FIRE AND SWORD and THE FIELDS OF DEATH; a novel about the 1565 Siege of Malta, SWORD & SCIMITAR; HEARTS OF STONE, set in Greece during the Second World War; and PLAYING WITH DEATH, a contemporary thriller written with Lee Francis. He also wrote the novels ARENA and INVADER with T. J. Andrews. His thriller, BLACKOUT set in WW2 Berlin and first published in 2021 was a Richard and Judy Book Club pick.
The inspiration for ‘Dead of Night’ (in Simon Scarrow’s own words)
When I research the period covering the rise and fall of Nazi Germany, it is sometimes hard to believe the bald statistics concerning the number of people murdered by the regime, nor is it easy to comprehend the cold-blooded manner in which those responsible went about it. Sometimes the sheer scale and breadth of the horrors inflicted by the Nazis is almost impossible to contemplate, and it is necessary to break the atrocity down in a way that allows people to connect with the victims in a more personal and empathetic way. That was the approach I took with this novel.
In order to understand what became known after the war as the Aktion T4 programme, it is necessary to realise that this mass murder policy was the result of many years of conscious preparation, drawing on influences much wider than those located in Germany. A perversion of Darwin’s theories of evolution gave rise to a growing number of works by scientists and pseudo-scientists advocating the removal of ‘defective’ humans in order to take them out of the chain of heredity and thereby ‘improve’ humankind. Such notions were eagerly taken up across Europe and in the Americas and provided febrile encouragement to the political programme of Adolf Hitler and his followers as early as the mid-1920s, when Hitler was already advocating the elimination of those he regarded as ‘degenerates’ (‘degeneriert’).
When the Nazi party seized power in 1933, they wasted no time in imposing their ideology on Germany. Besides the suppression of the media, the arrest, torture and murder of political rivals and the removal of Jewish civil rights, one of the first measures put in place was compulsory sterilization of certain groups. This was imposed on a wide range of those deemed degenerate: gypsies, prostitutes, the work-shy, habitual criminals, mixed-race people and those with incurable mental and physical disabilities. That same July, Hitler intended to pass laws to enable the killing of patients diagnosed with mental illness but was persuaded that such a move was too controversial. Even so, in 1935 he let it be known that, in the event of war, he would introduce such a measure, since the public’s attention would be elsewhere and, in any case, in time of war, a few extra deaths would be easily missed amongst so many others. From 1937 a secret committee of the Nazi party was making plans for a euthanasia programme, seeding the notion through sympathetic articles in the Nazi-controlled press that portrayed the lives of people with disabilities as ‘life not worthy of life’ (‘Lebensunwertes Leben’).
The programme was activated in February 1939 when the father of Gerhard Kretschmar, a boy born with missing limbs, petitioned Hitler to have his son killed. The father had already approached a doctor in Leipzig asking him to end Gerhard’s life but the doctor had refused on the basis that he might as a result be charged with murder. Having reviewed the case, Hitler sent his personal doctor, Karl Brandt, to arrange the murder of the child at the end of July. At the same time Hitler authorised Brandt to oversee the creation of a euthanasia programme. A month later, Hitler put an end to the sterilization program. Things had moved on from preventing reproduction by the ‘degenerates’ to eliminating them altogether. In October, Hitler signed an order empowering doctors to rid society of ‘useless eaters’ (‘unnütze esser’) by granting them a ‘merciful death’ (‘barmherziger Tod’).
The programme was the responsibility of the Reich Committee for Scientific Registering of Serious Hereditary and Congenital Illnesses, whose structure and purpose were kept secret from the general public. The overall head of the programme was Philipp Bouhler, an SS officer, and one of the first members of the Nazi party. The section of the programme concerned with children was under the control of an SS doctor, Viktor Brack, and based at Tiergartenstrasse 4, from which the later name Aktion T4 derives. From the start the emphasis of the programme was on killing, not children already in institutions, but those who were still living at home with their families, before moving on to the elimination of those already institutionalised. Parents were coaxed by doctors to entrust their children to institutions where they would, supposedly, be better cared for. Once the children had been removed from their homes, they were subjected to various treatments ultimately intended to kill them. Some were injected with drugs that would progressively weaken them, while others were starved to death. Their deaths were passed off as the result of natural causes. Often, the bodies were cremated to destroy the evidence, and the parents were only then sent news of the death of their child. Considerable efforts were taken to conceal the scale of the killings; for example Brack’s officials kept a map in their office with pins placed in it for each child, to ensure there were not any suspicious clusters and that the victims were evenly spread out.
Very soon there was pressure to increase the numbers of those being eliminated. The German forces in Poland had already been engaged in mass murder of patients with mental illnesses of all ages, and had first started using poison gas on Polish inmates transported to Posen. Chemical expert Albert Widmann was brought in from the Kripo’s forensic department to develop the most effective and efficient means of using gas (at this point carbon monoxide) to murder people, or, as they were described to him, ‘beasts in human form’. Widmann oversaw the construction of a test unit at Brandenburg prison, where patients diagnosed with mental illness were gassed in batches of fifteen to twenty. The process took approximately twenty minutes to kill them.
The programme was rapidly expanded across Germany and for some time it was kept secret from those not directly involved. But suspicion began to be aroused when the number of deaths in institutions for those with particular illnesses and conditions swiftly climbed and a number of doctors, coroners, judges and Catholic priests began to protest. The American journalist William Shirer was aware of the programme very early on, but only had concrete proof of its existence when he was contacted by a conscience-stricken official with the details in September 1940. Nonetheless, by a combination of denial, distraction, threats and ideological justification, the Nazi regime managed to prevent any effective opposition to the programme. By the end of the war, more than 80,000 people with disabilities had been murdered, over 5,000 of them children.
While the Holocaust is the most notorious crime committed by the Nazi party, it was through the euthanasia program that the Nazis first experimented with then perfected the means by which vast numbers of Jews, political opponents, gypsies, homosexuals and other victims were subsequently murdered. It was on the bodies of those helpless children that the most terrible atrocity of the twentieth century was built.
What was the fate of those responsible? Philipp Bouhler was captured by the Americans then committed suicide. Karl Brandt was tried and hanged in 1948, as was Viktor Brack. Albert Widmann escaped justice until 1959, when he was finally tried for his part in the programme and sentenced to six years in prison. He died in 1986. Even after the war, many of the doctors involved in the programme expressed their pride in what they portrayed as a process intended to improve the human race. In truth, all the above were the real ‘beasts in human form’.
It is worth remembering that the Nazis were not alone in imposing compulsory sterilization. As mentioned earlier, the cause of improving racial purity had gained advocates in many countries. Between the 1907 and 1939 the USA carried out over 60,000 compulsory sterilizations. In Europe, Switzerland, Denmark and Norway also embarked on similar programmes in the 1930s. In the case of Sweden, between 1935 and 1975, over 63,000 compulsory sterilizations took place. That is proportionately more, taking account of the relative populations, than Nazi Germany’s 350,000. It is clear that some seeds of Nazi Germany’s racial policies were sown in many other nations who were influenced by eugenics advocates from both ends of the political spectrum. We should not be so complacent as to assume that what happened in Nazi Germany could not be replicated somewhere else at another time.
I am sure that most people reading this account of the Aktion T4 programme will share my despair that such things are possible. How could such inhumanity as that underlying the Aktion T4 programme and the Holocaust have existed on so vast a scale? I can think of no greater horror than the fate of the vulnerable children who were murdered in cold blood by the Nazis.
Clara Button is no ordinary librarian. While the world remains at war, in East London Clara has created the country’s only underground library, built over the tracks in the disused Bethnal Green tube station.
Down here a secret community thrives: with thousands of bunk beds, a nursery, a cafe and a theatre offering shelter, solace and escape from the bombs that fall above.Along with her glamorous best friend and library assistant Ruby Munroe, Clara ensures the library is the beating heart of life underground.
But as the war drags on, the women’s determination to remain strong in the face of adversity is tested to the limits when it seems it may come at the price of keeping those closest to them alive.
Based on true events, The Little Wartime Library is a gripping and heart-wrenching page-turner that remembers one of the greatest resistance stories of the war.
For those followers who know my reading patterns, they will know that I really love novels set during WW2, so when I won The Little Wartime Library, I was so pleased as from the premise, I hoped it would be a good read.
Firstly, I must say that The Little Wartime Library is based on fact, this made the red so much better. This is the story of two friends, Clara and Ruby manage to survive the latter part of the war in Bethnal Green, London, working in a library that has been built above the tracks of the Underground because the above-ground library has been hit by a bomb and destroyed. This novel follows their lives and those of the locals, trying to work, live, love, and survive in tired war-torn London.
The cast of characters is quite large, but they are written with such love and care, you can tell that Kate Thompson has done a huge amount of research into the history of Bethnal Green and its inhabitants. I loved the cast of The Little Wartime Library and found the plots to be heart-rendering, gripping, and warm. We follow the novel from both Clara’s and Ruby’s perspectives ineach chapter, and this works well.
As always you know I’m not going to give any spoilers away, but this is a multi-faceted story of the lives of the Jewish and English residents of this small corner of London, I really did enjoy The Little Wartime Library, and particularly liked the section at the end of the paperback that tells you how Kate Thompson researched the background to writing this book.
If you like books based during WW2, that are also based on truth, books with a lovely warm feeling about them but also written with knowledge and great care and compassion, then The Little Wartime Library is one for you. I really did enjoy it and gave it a strong 4 stars.
Kate is an award-winning journalist, ghostwriter,and novelist. She spent five years working on national newspapers such as the Daily Express and Daily Mail, and also on all the major national woman’s magazine titles.
Over the past seven years, she has concentrated on writing ten fiction and non-fiction titles. Her debut novel, SECRETS OF THE SINGER GIRLS, was a Sunday Times bestseller in 2015, with first-week sales of over 10,000. It has recently been optioned by Bandit Television.
Kate’s first non-fiction book , which uncovers the lives of extraordinary women of wartime East End, THE STEPNEY DOORSTEP SOCIETY, was published by Penguin (Michael Joseph) in February 2019 and reached number one in the history categories on Amazon.
When war breaks out, three spirited women must set aside their differences to help Britain win the war. Fighting from the forests, they find new depths of courage, strength, and love. But – when war threatens everything – would you risk your life to save a friend?
When feisty, bohemian Keeva signs up for war work in the forest, she’s already learned the hard way that people can’t be trusted. For Rosie, a factory girl from London’s East End, the forest is an escape – but she can’t stop her big mouth from getting her into trouble. And Beatrice, a wealthy debutante, wants to use her brain, not ruin her fine hands felling trees. Meanwhile, Lady Denman, director of the Women’s Land Army, battles with bureaucrats in Whitehall to defend the Lumberjills.
As these strong women struggle to survive in a tough men’s world, it seems they really may succeed in their dangerous war work… when a terrible disaster strikes and threatens everything they have achieved.
The Lumberjills Stronger Together is inspired by the incredible and heroic true stories of the Women’s Timber Corps, a branch of the Women’s Land Army. Author Joanna Foat researched and interviewed sixty women who served as Lumberjills in World War II. These first-hand accounts, and her own passion for adventure in wild landscapes, bring a rugged authenticity to this emotionally rousing novel of female courage, strength, and determination.
A World War II novel for fans of Suzanne Goldring, Nancy Revell, and Jennifer Worth.
This is the first book I’ve read by Jo Foat, and I was very taken by the premise, as I had never heard of women lumberjacks (Jill’s) before.
I love that this book was forged from researching the real Lumberjills, who during the Second World War, worked alongside men to keep the timber supplies going as this was a vital material needed.
The characters are very well written, and the setting also really stood out to me. we meet girls from various backgrounds who are thrown together to work in often harsh conditions alongside men who have no respect for these women and the fact that eventually they will become as good if not better than them!
We follow the plot through their struggles and lives during the war in the Womens Timber Corps, you can tell there is a lot of research that has gone into The Lumberjills, and it keeps the story authentic and the plot is good and steady.
If you like reading about how women worked during WW2, then although this is a fiction book, it’s a great insight.
A jolly good read, 3 ⭐️⭐️⭐️ stars.
Joanna grew up in Surrey, Great Britain, and always loved the outdoors, forests, and wildlife – climbing trees, helping her Dad work on the car, tinkering in the shed, mowing the lawn and making bonfires. She also loved chopping up wood for the fire and one year her father bought her an axe for Christmas.
The gripping account of one historian’s hunt for answers as he delves into the surprising life of an ordinary Nazi officer.
It began with an armchair. It began with the surprise discovery of a stash of personal documents covered in swastikas sewn into its cushion.
The SS Officer’s Armchair is the story of what happened next, as Daniel Lee follows the trail of cold calls, documents, coincidences and family secrets, to uncover the life of one Dr Robert Griesinger from Stuttgart. As Lee delves deeper, Griesinger emerges as at once an ordinary man with a family and ambitions, and an active participant in the Nazi machinery of terror whose choices continue to reverberate today.
I saw this book and read the premise and was so intruiged I had to buy it!
I’ve always had a bit of an interest in WW2 and especially from the German point of view, no idea why, this book was a great read and kept my attention all the way through.
The story was so well researched by Daniel Lee, he went to extraordinary lengths to find out how a chair was found in the Czech Republic, to have a hoard of Nazi documents sewn into the seat, and how for 70 plus years they were only discovered when it was taken to an upholsterers!
I found it even more amazing that Daniel Lee is a Jew, so writing and trying to find out about the life of a former SS Officer was brave move and not without objection from his own community!
The book is as I’ve said, so well researched, I learnt a lot and I think Daniel Lee has managed to write a book describing the almost “normal” life of a man trying to live a life, with a family as a Nazi during WW2 and the effect this had on his relatives which still has an impact even today.
I found it a engrossing read, there are lots of research notes and photographs to help the reader navigate thru a pretty normal life, in terrible times. I do feel as a society we must learn from the past, and this means having the intelligence to read all accounts of peoples lives, weather they be deemed good or bad.
I shall be looking out for any other novels by Daniel Lee, a 4 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ read from me.
JW; Thank you so much for being a guest on my Blog Loise, I adored Operation Moonlight!
JW; I’d like to start by asking, have you always wanted to be a writer? And where did the idea of Operation Moonlight come from?
LM; I have always wanted to be an author, but when I was growing up this was not a career option for people like me at all! I read ALL the time, and wrote stuff in private, but didn’t show anyone or tell anyone of my secret dream, for years and years.
The idea for Operation Moonlight came from three different ‘sparks’: the first was when a friend told me about a 110-year-old woman she knew who was determined to become the oldest person in the world (she’s the oldest in Britain at this moment in time). The second was when my mum told me about a social club called The Coffin Club (you can make your own coffin and reminisce and make friends at the clubs, all over the world); and the third was when I stumbled across the story of a female secret agent in WW2 who had died all alone in 2010 and no one knew about her secret past. I put all three things together, and Betty emerged!
JW; How much research did you have to do for Operation Moonlight, did you get to visit any of the places mentioned in the book?
LM; Research is why I write historical fiction – I absolutely love it! I read more than 200 books on the war etc, and I visited a lot of the places in my novel. I was born and brought up in Guildford, and my family own a narrowboat on the River Wey, so all that was relatively easy. I also visited Wanborough Manor and Beaulieu, and Arisaig up in NW Scotland. But the worst experience was jumping out of a plane! I knew I had to do a parachute jump in order to write Elisabeth’s chapter authentically. But I have a paralysing fear of heights, and I almost passed out from terror. But I survived!
JW; How important to you was it to raise awareness of women’s roles during WW2 and how that impacted their lives?
LM; One of the main reasons I wrote Operation Moonlight was because I strongly believe that the women who helped win the war should be properly remembered. I hope I’ve honoured the female SOE agents in my novel. My writing is always inspired by real women who did extraordinary things in the past, but whose stories have vanished into obscurity.
JW; Who would you like to see playing the parts of Elisabeth & the older Betty, and also Tali and Jo, when Operation Moonlight is turned into a Movie? (It SO needs to be!)
LM; I’d love Operation Moonlight to be made into a film. Maybe Judi Dench or Maggie Smith for Betty? I haven’t got a clue about any of the other characters, though, as I don’t watch much telly or many films…sorry!
JW; As a child growing up, were you an avid reader or was television your thing? Do you have a favourite childhood book or television programme?
LM; I read A LOT. But back in the 80s, there wasn’t the huge range of children’s books and young adult fiction that there is now, so I read a lot of stuff I maybe wasn’t quite ready for…and I also watched a lot of weird telly. Looking back, the children’s programmes that were shown were bonkers! I loved Monkey Magic, which was this utterly mad Japanese series about a human god called Monkey who lived on a cloud and had weird adventures with a bald female monk and another chap called Piggy who wore skulls around his neck. It was as strange as that sounds!
My favourite book as a child was probably Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. I was a complete tomboy growing up (still am, actually), and I totally related to Jo March and her boyish ambitions.
JW; What is your favourite book or books that you have read so far in 2022, and why?
LM; So many! Loads of debuts this year have blown me away: No Country for Girls by Emma Styles, The Seawomen by Chloe Timms, The Hollow Sea by Annie Kirby, Moonlight and the Pearler’s Daughter by Lizzie Pook, Haven by Emma Donoghue, Shrines of Gaiety by Kate Atkinson, The Memory of Animals by Claire Fuller, The Marriage Portrait by Maggie O’Farrell, V2 by Robert Harris
JW; Do you have a favourite author or favourite book of all time?
LM; I love Sarah Waters. She is the queen of historical fiction in my opinion. But I can’t pick a favourite book of all time, there are too many that I’ve loved.
JW; If you could go back in time, to one historical event, to witness it, what would it be and why?
LM; What a brilliant question! I think I’d quite like to be transported back to 1666, to witness the days leading up to the Great Fire of London and the plague (from a safe vantage point). Not because I want to see our capital city burnt to the ground, but because I want to know what life was like back then, what it actually looked, sounded, smelled and tasted like. I’d love to talk to people on the street, sit in Parliament, walk along the Thames and find out how life was really lived back then.
JW; When you’re writing do you like silence or do you listen to music?
LM; A bit of both. I can’t have talking while I’m writing, so songs with lyrics are out. But I do listen to instrumental music that matches the mood of what I’m trying to write. For the book I’m currently writing, I’m listening to a lot of music from the Edwardian period, orchestral stuff, and also music from films like They Shall Not Grow Old.
JW; If you could invite four people to dinner, living or dead, who would you invite and why?
LM; Another brilliant question! Sylvia Pankhurst (because she has a cameo role in my next project, and her views on women’s suffrage and socialism would be really interesting to hear); Victoria Wood (because she was a genius, and made me laugh all the time); Ernest Shackleton (because I would question him in detail about how he survived such gruelling conditions in the South Pole, and what kept him going); a First World War soldier who actually fought in 1914 (because I want to know what it was really like then).
JW; If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go?
LM; The Antarctic, to follow in Shackleton’s footsteps. Before it’s too late.
JW; Do you have a hidden talent?
LM; I love these questions! I’m a ninja speller.
JW; Can you share a shelfie with us?
JW; Are you currently writing another book, and when will it be released?
LM; I am writing another book, but I can’t tell you much about it yet as nothing has been finalised. What I can say is that it’s inspired by two real-life women who achieved extraordinary things over a hundred years ago, but who have been largely forgotten about.
1944: Newly recruited SOE agent Elisabeth Shepherd is faced with an impossible mission: to parachute behind enemy lines into Nazi-occupied France and monitor the new long-range missiles the Germans are working on.
Her only advice? Trust absolutely no one. With danger lurking at every turn, one wrong move for Elisabeth could spell instant death.
2018: Betty is about to celebrate her 100th birthday. With her carer Tali at her side, she receives an invite from the Century Society to reminisce on the past.
Remembering a life shrouded in secrecy and danger, Betty remains tight-lipped. But when Tali finds a box filled with maps, letters and a gun hidden in Betty’s cellar, it becomes clear that Betty’s secrets are about to be uncovered . . .
Nostalgic, heart-pumping and truly page-turning, OPERATION MOONLIGHT is both a gripping read and a novel that makes you think about a generation of women and men who truly knew what it meant to survive.
I happened across Operation Moonlight whilst looking at books on Amazon, once I read the premise, I knew I would want to read it. So duly ordered it ( even though I’m not supposed to be buying books! ), and when it arrived was a gorgeous looking tome by a new author to me, Louise Morrish.
The novel is told from two timelines, 2018 when we meet Betty Shepherd the soon to be 100 year old slightly frail lady who lives in her family home of Weyside in Guildford, Surrey, with her lovely young Maurician carer Tali. The second timeline is during WW2, 1944 to be precise when we meet Elisabeth Shepherd and travel with her during her journey of secrets through 1944 & 1945.
So if you like the sound of the premise, you will love Operation Moonlight. It is written so well by Louise Morrish and it’s her debut novel ( it does not read like that!). The attention to detail describing Elisabeth’s adventures during WW2 is truly excellent, and for me, really visceral as most of the action takes place where I’ve lived and visited in the past! Maybe that’s what made the book more magical for me? Who knows, but the wonderful descriptions of what accounts for everyday life during WW2 are astounding, and so moving. Louise Morrish has a real talent for writing from the heart and making that character live through her words, a rare talent, especially in a debut author! Betty/Elisabeth just appeared off the page during both timelines so magically. You can tell that Louise Morrish has studied people of all ages and used that research in writing about Betty.
The story is gripping, and at times had me breaking out in a fit of nerves I did not expect several of the events that happened in fact I was shocked! Operation Moonlight is such an easy read even though it’s packed with historical facts, Louise Morrish really does know how to write a compelling read and keeps the reader engaged the whole way through.
I was left wanting more once I had finished, mainly because I loved all the characters so much. As usual, I’m not going to give any of the plot away, but having read a few Wartime books, I have to say that this is going to be up there as one of my favorites, and it’s a certain contender for my yearly top ten books!
I know I normally stick to crime fiction, as I’m obsessed with murder LOL, but I do love novels set during WW2, this has defiantly been one of my highlights of that genre. That it passed below my radar and hasn’t been talked about on Twitter etc is a travesty, I urge my fellow readers to go out and buy a copy now, you won’t be disappointed.
A glorious 5 stars from me…indeed I’d give it more if I could!
Louise Morrish is a Librarian whose debut novel won the 2019 Penguin Random House First Novel Competition. She finds inspiration for her stories in the real-life adventures of women in the past, whom history has forgotten. She lives in Hampshire with her family.
A Mystic’s daughter flees Moscow on the eve of the Great War. A French soldier lies wounded on the Western Front. A German officer veers between loyalty and integrity. An English courtesan reclines on a sea of books.
Each will make a journey that changes history.
The constellations will force the Mystic’s daughter to make an impossible choice. To remain at her harp as the shadow of war looms again – or join the top-secret Special Operations Executive (SOE). Babouli to her Sufi father, ‘Madeleine’ to the Gestapo, a lone mission to Occupied Paris promises to be the most hazardous of World War Two.
Inspired by real events, CODENAME: MADELEINE is the most unexpected spy story ever told. It teems with tigers, zeppelins, elephants, U-boats, angels, assassins, chessmen, cyanide, beetles, butterflies and Rumi. Revolving between Paris, London, Prague, India and Latin America, CODENAME: MADELEINE is a kaleidoscope of love, war, music, betrayal, poetry and resistance.
Occupied Paris, 1943
Noor’s pace quickened.The battered suitcase concealing her Mark II radio transmitterwas heavy. Caught with a hidden transmitter receiver, she would betaken for immediate interrogation at Gestapo headquarters. Eventhe reinforced walls in the basement of 84 Avenue Foch could notshut out the screams. In extremis there was Plan C. Hidden in thebutton of her dress above her belt was a white pill stamped on bothsides with red letters.
DANGER! KCNScientific compound: Cyanide. The words of her handler had areassuring echo. It will take about twelve seconds. On her lapel was a silver bird studded with jewel eyes – ruby, like the letters on the cyanide pill. She was the last radio transmitter left in Paris. Her predecessor, Denis Rake, had made an emergency stage exit. Any longer and he would have been sitting, arms clamped to a chair, in 84 Avenue Foch.
Noor exited Le Colisée on the Champs-Elysées, suitcase in hand. The café was approved by London. The coat attendant knew the password. Nothing about the two male contacts she left sitting at the corner table had aroused Noor’s suspicion. Their French was convincing, if hard to place. One, perhaps, took more than a passing interest in the reddish tint of her hair, though most was concealed under her cloche hat.
As she walked north along the Champs-Elysées, she noticed a man engrossed in a copy of Le Monde fold his newspaper. Another, on the opposite side of the Champs-Elysées, put on a pair of sunglasses. Nothing out of place on a warm October day, even in wartime. Despite the weeping blister on her heel, a strange euphoria came over Noor as she walked. London would be extracting her within twenty-four hours. She had succeeded, where others failed, in eluding the Gestapo. Gestapo units had been scouring the city for weeks like a plague of black beetles in search of a wireless operator who would vanish, like the tap of Morse code, into the ether.
She knew she was London’s only remaining eyes in Paris. She had refused orders to leave once before. Now even Georges Morel and the extreme fighters of the Paris Resistance said it was too dangerous to stay a minute longer.
Noor noticed splashes of colour returning to the drained Renoir of occupied Paris. The burgundy of a woman’s beret. The purple of a bougainvillaea entwined around the entrance of a florist. The pink of a ribbon around a box of pâtisseries. The weather was still balmy. She felt as if she were back at the Sorbonne, carrying her harp instead of a Mark II transmitter. The following afternoon she and her radio would be clambering aboard a Lysander sent by the phantom RAF squadron used to extract agents. Her inner harp strings, so long taut to the point of snapping, were beginning to release.
She cut through Rue Marbeuf. On the wall of a kiosk, she saw a reward for 200,000 francs for information in connection with the disappearance of a Gestapo officer last seen in the 5eme Arrondissement. Her heart quickened. That day she had jumped through Morel’s attic window when she heard the pounding on the porte d’entrée. As she walked, she felt a presence. The ruby eyes on her lapel glowed a deeper red. The man she had seen folding his copy of Le Monde was matching her pace. The man in sunglasses was visible in the reflections of the shop windows. Was it her imagination? She recalled the last Morse transmission from London. Be extra careful.
When a shadow crossed her heart, Noor would think always of her father’s words. In times of strife, Bābouli, always find andfollow your breath. She focused on her lungs and initiated adhyampranayama – upper chest breath. She felt her pulse steady. As she breathed, the same conflict stirred in the ventricles of her heart. Could she extinguish the divine light of life? Next to the transmitter was her treasured book: The Wisdom of Rumi. Her father, Inayat, had underlined one of the Sufi master’s sayings: ‘With life as short as a half-taken breath, plant nothing but love.’
She reminded herself that if she was caught and taken to 84 Avenue Foch, the Gestapo, in their black leather trench coats, would be planting nothing but hate. There was a saying among SOE agents. If you are taken for interrogation, smile while you still have teeth. Her mind spun. What could she use? Her .38 calibre pistol was in the safe house. The curriculum of Special Training School No. 5 also included unarmed combat. Even the peaceable mind of a mystic’s daughter had one mantra driven home like a sledgehammer. Everything is a weapon.
She could feel the softness of her cloche, so familiar it felt like part of her head. Hats were an obvious precaution. This one had a feature unknown to anyone except the F-Section technician who devised the fast-acting toxin for the tip of the hatpin. It was lodged three inches above her right ear. Noor moved the suitcase to her left hand. The footsteps behind her quickened. She could feel the brachial nerve in her right forearm twitch.
The gentle hand of a Sufi harpist was ready to sting like a scorpion.