Friday, June 19, 2009

War on the Margins by Libby Cone


31. War on the Margins
by Libby Cone
fiction, 2009
paperback, 243 pages
finished, 6/13/09


I am so grateful to Maureen for sending me this book, and I would like to pass along the kindness by offering a giveaway. Please leave a comment on any post telling me that you would like the book, and a week from today, June 26, I will draw a winning name. I'll send it anywhere. Just two little things: one, it is an 'uncorrected proof' and two, there are a couple little love scenes if there are readers who don't like that sort of thing. :<) This is an important book. It deals with what happened to the people of Jersey when the British government gave up on the Channel Islands. They were:

deemed indefensible and were to be declared a 'demilitarised zone.' The Germans would be allowed to take over. Churchill had been convinced of the Islands' lack of strategic importance.


Can you imagine? You are a British citizen, living on British soil, and you are a captive of the enemy . We are so used to the newsreels of brave Londoners. How must these people have felt? There weren't any newsreels showing their endurance. There weren't even mentions of them in the news.

Not a word about the occupied Islands, though everyone yearned not to be forgotten. Which was worse: to flee into Underground tunnels most nights and sit in the damp as the bombs thudded down, or to see one's street overrun with German soldiers and vehicles, and the sunny beaches pockmarked with mines? To have to watch one's step, hold one's breath, keep a pleasant face so as not to upset the wrong person and end up in prison? To find you couldn't trust your local government?

The book is based on the author's thesis. She was encouraged to make it into a novel, so there are some parts which are true, such as lists of citizens, actual orders from the Germans, and two artists in the book who were real. The book's chapters alternate between newspaper reports, official proclamations, and stories of various people on the island. There is the slow, awful build-up of anti-Semitism as there was in every place the Germans occupied, including Germany itself. One day all Jewish people are to be declared 'foreigners.' Another day they cannot shop except for an hour a day. It escalates quietly and relentlessly. I could hardly bear it. There are unimaginable horrors. Food is a huge issue. The major nourishment comes from swedes (rutabagas) and potatoes, often shriveled and really inedible. Sometimes farmers leave items out for those in hiding, but more often the people eat what they have to, including rats. I don't know if I could do it. But I've never been put to the test, and pray I never am.

The author has put together a list of books about this subject.

Here is a little background I read online:

The Channel Islands are neither part of the European Union or the UK, however they are part of the British Isles, with the British Sovereign as their Head of State. The Bailiwick of Jersey comprises the largest island, Jersey, and its islets, while the Bailiwick of Guernsey includes Guernsey, Alderney, Herm and Sark. The Bailiwicks have their own parliaments and are proud of their autonomy, which was granted to them by King John in 1204. In many ways the culture of the islands is closer to Normandy than the United Kingdom.

And this:

Then, in 1939, this happy-go-lucky resort suddenly found itself the only British soil to be occupied by German forces during WWII. This incredibly harsh period of Channel Islands history can be seen in numerous, poignant sites, including the many highly visible German fortifications.

And:

For nearly five years, Jersey was under German rule and, along with the rest of the Channel Islands, it was the only part of Great Britain to be occupied during World War II.


Nobody expected Hitler to invade the Channel Islands and Jersey was still being advertised as the perfect holiday destination just a week before the Occupation started on July 1st 1940, eight months after Britain declared war on Germany. The British Government had left the Islands unprotected a fact that was not made known to the German forces and so, not surprisingly, they bombed Jersey before invading.

Initially the Islands were used as a place for rest and relaxation for the troops but the occupiers soon set about Germanising the Islands - the language of the road signs was changed, cars had to drive on the right and schoolchildren were forced to learn German - which incensed the local population.

In such small Islands with no military capabilities of their own, it was impossible to organise a resistance movement, but the majority of Islanders fought back in their own way by refusing to co-operate with the regime.

The German authorities would not tolerate even small acts of defiance and anyone caught listening to radio broadcasts from London or painting V for victory symbols over German signs would be sent to prison. Greater offences, such as sending carrier pigeons with messages to England or even showing kindness to the slave labourers working in the Islands, were punishable by death.

Please read Maureen's excellent review and her exciting update, and dovegreyreader's wonderful influential review, part of which is quoted on the back of War on the Margins.

And here is the website for the book. War on the Margins is available for pre-order here. It comes out on July 23.

Addendum: Heather just gave me a link to another review which is here.

42 comments:

  1. Wow. That looks very good. Could you sign me up for the giveaway Nan?

    Thanks!!!!!

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  2. This sounds incredibly interesting!

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  3. Sounds like a very interesting book. Please put my name in the hat, Nan.

    Thanks.

    Linda in Chapel Hill

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  4. I just read the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society yesterday, so I'm really in the mood for a book like this. Would you please sign me up?

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  5. Please include me :) We watched "Island at War" on DVD not long ago, about this. It was very interesting.

    Blessings,
    Niki

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  6. Please enter my name in your giveaway; this sounds like a real goody!

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  7. Bridget and Linda, your names are on the list.

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  8. Joyce, Niki, and Mindy, I've added your names.

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  9. I didn't realize this about the islands. Sounds like a great book. I love history and especially historical fiction. Put me down and pick me!

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  10. Yes please! Add my name to the draw. Tabitha.

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  11. The book sounds fascinating. Please add my name to the draw.
    Thanks.

    Carol

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  12. Nan, as usual, another interesting book recommendation. Just one thing, though ... Churchill had no choice in the matter - at the point when he declared the CIs indefensible, there was a very real danger than London too was indefensible and would be overrun by Nazis. The battle of Britain really was a battle for survival, and was only won because Hitler turned his attention to Russia. It was Churchill who kept alive the idea of Britishness during the dark days of 1939/40, just as de Gaulle kept alive the idea of Frenchness from June 1940 on through until the liberation. There was nothing inevitable about the outcome - indeed, in the early years of the war, both men were widely regarded as being dreamers in the face of the Nazi war machine. End of lecture, although, sadly, I could go on all day ;)

    It was through you that I read the Guersey Lit Soc book, so would be pleased if you'd put my name in the hat

    Joanna

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  13. Nan, I knew that you would appreciate this book. You are right about parts of it being quite harrowing to read, especially the treatment of the so-called slave labourers. I think it will prove to be an important book about this period in European history.
    Maureen

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  14. You have such a great taste in books, Nan. All the ones you've recommended that I've subsequently read I've enjoyed. Please sign me up. Thanks, SS

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  15. Please sign me up ... I have never read anything like this and it sounds very interesting. Thanks.

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  16. I've added you all to the list.

    Joanna, I was just writing from this book's point of view. I know it is much more complicated. This is just the way the Islanders saw the situation.

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  17. This one sounds intriguing—drop my name in the hat, too, please!

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  18. Hmmmm, Nan. Your aster might be a dogbane. I can't tell the scale.

    Please sign me up.

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  19. Silphium, so very glad to hear from you! I was just thinking about you the other day because I commented on someone's blog about Queen of the Prairie! The flower is about the size of a quarter. I've put your name on the list.

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  20. Nan,

    This one sounds like a great read. Have you read the Guernsey Potato book? That was beautiful and touched on this subject. One I had never heard about until I picked up that book. Would love to be entered into your giveaway!!

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  21. WOW...that looks good as a follow up to The Guernsey Literary and Pot. Pie Peel Society!

    Bonnie

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  22. Thanks Nan,I would love to read this book. Please include me in the draw.


    Patricia

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  23. Staci, yes I did read it, and wrote about it before we 'met' -

    http://lettersfromahillfarm.blogspot.com/2008/09/book-reportthe-guernsey-literary-and.html

    You, Bonnie, and Patricia are on the list.

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  24. Love your blog, just wish I could find more time to read and comment on blogs more consistently.
    I've had this book on my TBR list for a few months and look forward to reading it. It sounds like a book I would really enjoy.

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  25. Jeanette, your name is on the list.

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  26. This sounds like an important book on chapters of the war we were not educated on. Thanks for offering the chance to win tis.
    Colleen

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  27. I'd be grateful if you'd add me to the names in the hat, please, Nan. I'm another reader who adored Guernsey, so this would make a fascinating comparison, I'd imagine. Thanks!

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  28. Looks like a great book! If I don't win I would like to find a copy to read. Thanks for the giveaway and for adding my name to the list.

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  29. Put me on the list for this book too. I think I learned about the occupation of the Channel Islands on some Mystery! production. Mystery reading and watching is very educational.

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  30. I've put your name on the list, Commonweeder. The PBS show was called Island at War. I've just put it in my Netflix queue. I agree about the educational value of PBS shows. Over the years, I've been introduced to many, many authors through Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery (now combined), as well as learning much about history.

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  31. This sounds excellent. I'd love to be entered in the drawing please!

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  32. Tara, I've put your name on the list.

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  33. I was out of town all last week so I'm just now getting around to reading this post. I've had this book on my TBR list for a while now after reading about it over at The Armenian Odar Reads. Glad to know you enjoyed it - it sounds fascinating.

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  34. Thanks, Nan, for leaving a comment at my review (and thanks to you, Heather, for remembering my review!). I just finished a re-read of War on the Margins earlier this week. I was going to write another post about the book to be put up around the publication date, but when I received the proof copy, I ended up reading the book front to back again! I'm glad you enjoyed the book as well.

    I will include links to your and Maureen's reviews in my upcoming post.

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  35. Myrthe, thanks so much for writing. Don't you just love, love the blogging world!

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  36. I just discovered this blog and that this book had even been published. I own the original copy of the photo that makes up the cover of this book. I'm delighted to see that the book has been so well received. Can't wait to read it for myself.

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  37. Karen Beth, that's AMAZING! It is a wonderful, wonderful picture. Is it a relation?

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