The Girl in the Blue Beret
Bobbie Ann Mason
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"This novel is timeless even if much has been written about WWII."
Author Bobbie Ann Mason’s book about World War II would seem passé, but unexpectedly this novel based on true events is timely and provocative. Commercial pilot Marshall Stone returns to France after his retirement in search of the people who rescued him from the Nazis when his B-17 fighter bomber crashed. After the war he didn’t think much about the incident, rather he returned to marry his sweetheart and have children.
This is a haunting story, about those in the French Resistance captured and tortured for helping American aviators, based on Mason’s extensive research and interviews with surviving members of the French underground. Also the author is well acquainted with this drama since her motivation for writing it comes from her father-in-law Barney Rawlings’ own experience he documented in a 1994 memoir, Off We Went. Rawlings, like the character in the novel, is aided by a teenager who helped him escape from France into Spain. Mason successfully locates the teenager, Michéle Moët-Agniel, and from her learns the horrors of her German imprisonment.
In the novel Stone is overwhelmed to learn the people who rescued him still held on to his flight jacket expecting someday he would return. He discovers the sadness felt by members of the Resistance who risked their lives to help aviators who were never acknowledged after the war.
Stone moves to Paris and when he locates the girl in the blue beret, Annette, he learns the price she paid to rescue him and others. Many French women captured were murdered, and those who survived were tortured. “Think, Marshall. Their barbarity called forth our own savagery. There is atrocity everywhere. The blame is not just on Germany. It’s on all us,” Annette tells Stone.
This dramatic novel is timeless even if much has been written about WWII. Mason’s story is a reminder of human sacrifices, the importance of remembering the past, and second chances.
Reviewer: Kate Padilla