The Blurb (from Goodreads):
Inspired by the true story of a young Jewish girl – Hedy Bercu – who fled to Jersey from Vienna only to find herself trapped on the island during the German occupation.
In June 1940, the horror-struck inhabitants of Jersey watch as the German army unopposed takes possession of their island. Now only a short way from the English coast, the Germans plan their invasion.
Hedy Bercu, a young Jewish girl from Vienna who fled to the isolation and safety of Jersey two years earlier to escape the Nazis, finds herself once more trapped, but this time with no way of escape.
Hiding her racial status, Hedy is employed by the German authorities and secretly embarks on small acts of resistance. But most dangerously of all, she falls in love with German lieutenant Kurt Neumann — a relationship on which her life will soon depend.
A remarkable novel of finding hope and love when all seems at its darkest.
One of my all-time favourite novels is The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, and so this novel about a young Jewish woman hiding on the British island of Jersey during the German occupation in World War Two caught my eye at once. I’m writing my own story of resistance and subterfuge at the moment, and reading a lot of memoirs about brave people who hid those most at risk from the Nazis, so I was interested to learn this novel was inspired by the true story of its two main female characters, Hedwig Bercu and Dorothea Le Brocq.
Hedwig (called Hedy) is an Austrian Jew who flew to Jersey from Vienna only to find herself trapped on the island during the German occupation.
Dorothea is a local Jersey girl who falls in love with Hedy’s best friend, who is a German soldier. This means she is called a ‘Jerrybag’ by the locals, and accused of collaboration.
They are not friends to begin with, but as conditions under Nazi occupation worsen, Dorothea proves she is the most courageous and loyal of friends, keeping Hedy hidden within her home for months.
Matters are greatly complicated by the fact Hedy has also fallen for a German soldier, who risks his own life to try and help the two ostracised women.
Simply and directly told, this is a gentle story of friendship, love, and moral complexity. It does not demonise the Germans and idolise the British, as so many similar stories so. It shows that there is goodness and evil on all sides in a war, and that even the most ordinary people are capable of cruelty or courage, depending on what choices they make.