Disclaimer: I received a free copy from Netgalley. This did not affect my review.
It may be a shift in my reading interests, or it may be that there really is an increase in historical fiction set in WWII showcasing female British flyers and spies. Ever since Code Name Verity, the interest in these women seems to be higher. At least, my interest is higher–so I was quick to request this book from Netgalley.
Madeleine’s War by Peter Watson is another such novel, set primarily in England in the days just before D-Day in 1944 and in the aftermath of the invasion. The narrator and protagonist is Matthew Hammond, a British military intelligence officer working with SC2. Although initially working with the French resistence behind enemy lines, he was injured and lost a lung, so he is now back home where his assignment is to train new spies, including women. His prize pupil is Madeleine, code name "Oak."
Madeleine has some baggage from her own past that makes sending her to France complicated.
Shortly afterward, the invasion begins. Communication with many of the spies in place, including Madeleine, is lost as the war is being won. Matthew is tasked with discovering what has happened to the lost spies, particularly the women.
This is an interesting story and a different way to present the role of female spies. It is entirely told through the eyes of the military man. We never really see Madeleine’s point of view, so we are left with images of her through his eyes. He was given a set of tasks to perform, so the storyline really focuses on Matthew’s war rather than on Madeleine’s war. She spends most of the book missing and the book is about his search and the things he does and his thoughts and doubts about her. The reader gets caught up in those questions and in the search.
This is a fairly gentle read. It held my interest throughout, but it wasn’t a page-turner. The love story was OK but not particularly memorable. If you like WWII stories that delve into the role of women, or that look at how Britain supported the French resistance, this is a solid historical to add to the genre, with a different angle since it is all told through the eyes of the male commanding officer.