Do you love stories about forbidden love? World War II historicals? I recommend The English Girl to you!
June 18, 2021
Blurb: He is German. She is English. Their countries are enemies. Can love bring them together? Inspired by an incredible true story, this is a sweeping tale about the power of hope in the face of war and the legacy of an impossible choice.
1946, Norfolk, England: Grief and fear spill over in Fran’s small village when German prisoners of war are sent to the nearby camp. After the death of her beloved brother on the front lines, Fran cannot see the new arrivals as anything but his killers.
When one of the mines the Germans are clearing from the beach explodes, Fran is thrown into the path of prisoner Thomas as they rush to help the wounded. Thomas’s kind, artistic nature and his bravery, putting himself in danger to save others, changes everything for Fran. She realises he is a boy just like her brother and was forced to fight in a war he never believed in.
From that day on, there is something powerful and unspoken connecting Fran and Thomas. But as battle lines are drawn across Europe and tensions within the village reach breaking point, they could be about to unleash something neither of them can control…
1989, Berlin: Tiffany arrives in Berlin from London, just as the wall that divided a nation finally falls. With only a few words of German, she celebrates with strangers in the streets, and crosses the border between West and East. In her pocket is a crumpled letter addressed to her grandmother, yellowed with age, that has led her in search of a wartime secret with the power to change her future…
Sarah Mitchell’s The English Girl begins with a young woman, Tiffany, arriving in Berlin in 1989 as masses celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. Caught up in the celebration, Tiffany drinks champagne, befriends a handsome curly-haired German, and learns important German words like: Freedom. But Tiffany is on a mission of her own, spurred on by a 40+ year old letter her grandmother showed her.
In 1946, Fran’s village becomes the site of a German POW camp, controversial because the war is over, and the English are demanding the prisoners do the dangerous task of removing landmines from the Norfolk beach. On the day the prisoners arrive, Fran meets the brilliant blue eyes of Thomas, her soulmate.
Fran goes to work in the prison camp office of a Major who is suffering from PTSD; his wife is having an affair with an American soldier; and Fran’s office mate’s brother, Martin, is maligned by the town because he has a bad heart and wasn’t permitted to join up and Martin’s mother who harbors secrets of her own. To say that there’s a lot going on would be an understatement!
The English Girl does an excellent job of showing the ramifications of war on the human mind and how easily people would dismiss it as someone being barmy. As well, the way in which men who couldn’t go to war because of health reasons were mistreated, sometimes brutally, and how difficult forgiveness can be.
Despite the fact that from the first chapter I understood how the romance between Fran and Thomas would turn out, The English Girl kept me interested. There was quite a bit of melodrama with a variety of vehicle accidents, heightened, over-the-top emotions, and sometimes unreasonable behavior.
At times the book felt overly long and the scenes of the forbidden romance infrequent. The love was at first sight and I would have loved to have seen more signs of them being companionable rather than just attracted. As is often the case with stories of forbidden love, it raises the idea of being unable to control who you fall in love with and how that love is viewed–or would be viewed–by people who don’t approve. And, perhaps how easily people judge each other and act on that judgement.
The English Girl worked for the most part as I became engrossed in the lives of Fran, Thomas, Martin, and et al, and introduced me to a place, time, and history I had been unaware of.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
4 out of 5 butterflies