I finished reading The Girl In The Blue Beret last night. It's another WWII setting, well written by Bobbie Ann Mason who is a writer in residence at the University of Kentucky. The list of awards she's won is impressive. Besides a good story, I look for good writing in novels.
Ms. Mason has done extensive research for the background of her story. In 1980, Marshall Stone is a commercial pilot who is forced to retire long before he's ready only because of airline policy. His wife died a couple years earlier, his two children are adults and independent. At loose ends, Marshall decides to go to France to find the people who helped him when his plane was shot down in 1944. There were many who hid him, then moved him on to others who did the same. He wants to thank them personally and to know more about these everyday heroes.
The one who stands out in his mind is a young schoolgirl who guided him through Paris. He stayed in her family's apartment while they forged papers for him and found a way to get him to back to his base in England. He would need to go south to Spain, crossing the Pyrenees and then fly on to England. The young gilr wore a blue beret--one that all her schoolmates wore.
Marshall finds one of the couples who helped him, and their son aids him in finding others. He finds an apartment in Paris and becomes a part of the city, reveling in its beauty and freedom. During the war years he hid and ran secretly during the Nazi occupation.
Eventually, Marshall finds Annette, the schoolgirl he remembered so well. Now, she is in her fifties, only a few years younger than he. She is a widow, a mother and grandmother. Through her, he learns more about the resistance movement during the war years and what happened to many of those people when they were caught. He learns why ordinary citizens risked so much for others, and he learns a great deal about himself. Once again, it is Annette who guides him on this journey.
The characters are varied and many stand out due to the skillful writing of Ms. Mason. If you're a history buff, you'll soak up the historical bits and pieces that serve to illustrate this story. If you're a romantic, you'll revel in the love story that emerges.
I liked everything about this book except the ending. I won't spoil the story for you by revealing it. Just suffice it say that I read the final page and said out loud, "What?" Then slammed the book shut. Maybe it's only because I like endings wrapped up neatly in pretty ribbons. Someone else who reads the book may be completely satisfied with the ending. I'd love to hear from others who read The Girl In The Blue Beret. Let me know what you think.