If you enjoy fast paced historical fiction, World War II French Resistance stories, as well as romance, you’ll most definitely like this book by author Amanda Lees.
In this article I’m talking about:
- Key Historical Facts You Need to Know Before Reading “The Silence Before Dawn”
- What “The Silence Before Dawn” Is About
- My thoughts
- Trigger warnings
7 Key Historical Facts You Need to Know Before Reading “The Silence Before Dawn”
You can read this book without any prior knowledge. It does a fairly decent job at explaining the situation in France in 1944, even though it doesn’t go into much detail about it. However, I would argue your reading experience will be much improved by knowing a few key facts:
- Resistance in France began as soon as the Germans invaded in May 1940. Tactics employed by the French Resistance are still considered models of guerrilla warfare. General Charles de Gaulle led the legitimate government-in-exile “Free France”. This was recognised and funded by the British.
- After the occupation, marshal Philippe Pétain led efforts to negotiate an armistice and established a German puppet state known as Vichy France. As a collaborationist regime, forces like the Militia – the French police, were not to be trusted.
- The Special Operations Executive (SOE) was a secret British World War II organisation, with headquarters in Baker Street, in London.
- The book is set in August 1944, when key events took place to free France:
- Operation Jedburgh, mentioned in the book, consisted of air-dropping three-man parties of SOE uniformed military personnel into France.
- Operation Overlord, also mentioned in the book, took place in June 1944 and landed two million men, including a French armoured division, through the beaches of Normandy, opening a Western front against Germany.
- Operation Dragoon was set in August to launch a second offensive force.
- The maquis (also known as partisans, resistance, and freedom fighters) and the other individual support groups remained separate entities until the Allied invasion of France in 1944.
- The Counter Intelligence Corps (Army CIC) was a United States organisation in WWII, with specially trained agents who were mostly involved in sabotaging and acquiring information about communism.
- Nikolaus “Klaus” Barbie was a German operative who worked in France during World War II. He became known as the “Butcher of Lyon” for having personally tortured prisoners—primarily Jews and members of the French Resistance—as the head of the Gestapo in Lyon. His escape from France is closely connected with the CIC organisation and I advise you to look it up on wikipedia after you finish the book.
These historical facts will allow you a better understanding and a fuller immersion, without the need of further stopping for further reading on the subject.
What “The Silence Before Dawn” Is About
Marianne is the young leader of a French Resistance network. When the scheduled meeting place with Resistance operatives of other networks is “randomly” raided by the Gestapo, it is clear a mole has infiltrated her organisation. Her brother, a Resistance leader himself, gets killed and Jack Hamilton, her fiancé, gets captured by the Militia. When Jack is also accused of being a traitor, Marianne doesn’t know what to believe, but, either way, Jack needs to be rescued as he holds vital information about Operation Dragoon that can’t get into the hands of Klaus Barbie.
For a successful rescue operation, Marianne is helped by a myriad of spies and Resistance agents, French, as well as British and American. The book emphasises the difficulty in trusting those around you when so many things depend upon it and the nightmare that was international cooperation during war.
However, the French Resistance manages to mess with the Germans in various and ingenious ways. The things they did are unexpected, sometimes even funny if we think about them nowadays. “The Silence Before Dawn” shows all that, as well as the upmost importance and the crucial role women had in WWII.
As a historical fiction, “The Silence Before Dawn” managed to bring me into the atmosphere of the WWII and to shed a light to less known facts like the guerrilla tactics used by the French Resistance. I was impressed at their ingenuity and of the role women played in it. The entire book is practically a praise and recognition to women spies and I was enchanted by this premise.
All female characters are powerful leaders who gain the respect of their male subordinates and collaborators. They are all fearless and clear headed and make difficult decisions without hesitation.
I had no difficulty falling in love with each one of them!
The male agents, on the other hand…
They were not bad in action. Klaus Barbie was actually spectacular. But the others were a bit weak. There were characters like Henry, for example, who were just a name. No back story, not even a mere description of how he looks like so that we can picture him. He was not the only one. Most of the characters are not really described, nor do we get clear reasons for their actions.
The main plot twist is also not entirely clear on reasons. How does a traitor become a traitor? How does one get to betray their own? What pushes someone to believe the Nazi’s narrative? These were questions I would have loved to be explored deeper.
However, this is just a first volume. I’m hoping the next will make everything clearer.
A great thing about this book was the pacing. I flew through the pages. The chapters were short and things happened all the time. So much action was just perfect!
But even more than action, the love story was beautiful. The way Marianne and Jack always thought about each other in order to cope with difficulty was dreamy.
What I didn’t enjoy, though, was their love making scenes. I had not been prepared for them. They were very descriptive and I didn’t feel they were quite needed, not in so much detail or such explicit detail. (And I need to say I do read and enjoy these kind of scenes without any problems usually.) However, for this book, it added the carnal dimension to love which made it, for me, a bit more common.
While reading about all the horrors of war, the violence, the tortures, reading a love story could have been an elevated experience, something more like an ideal. It didn’t manage to do that and it kind of brought me out of the atmosphere of the book with its modern air.
The same modern air was felt through characters’ thoughts such as:
It would be fun to see if this developed into something more than an entente cordiale.The Silence Before Dawn, Amanda Lees
These are not bad things in themselves, they were just a bit out of place for me. They should not deter you from reading it!
Overall, the book was wonderful and a pleasure to read!
Triggers and General Content Awareness
- Detailed violence and torture
- Explicit sexual language and sex scenes
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