Friday, November 24, 2017

Never Surrender

It’s not a terribly appropriate topic for the day after Thanksgiving, but my latest interview at New Books in Historical Fiction explores some of the lesser-known byways of World War II. With the vast literature already devoted to the war, it’s hard to imagine that anything remains understudied, in fiction or nonfiction. Yet these two authors—Barbara Ridley and Judithe Little—approach the war in terms of the relationship between the allies Britain and France, especially the crucial turning point in 1940, when Hitler’s forces invaded and conquered France and Britain withdrew from continental Europe in preparation for its own battle against the Axis powers. In doing so, they avoid well-traveled paths in favor of questions that in some cases have a very contemporary relevance: the difficulties facing refugees, the fraying of alliances under pressure, and the brutal sacrifices made in pursuit of victory.

We can, of course, be grateful not to face such harsh choices or to live in a world at war. And remember that war and displacement continue to affect thousands, even millions, of our fellow human beings, to whom it behooves us to extend kindness and compassion. 

Meanwhile, I hope you all had a wonderful holiday!

The rest of this post comes from New Books in Historical Fiction. Note that for technical reasons, the network has listed the interview under Barbara Ridley’s name. The audio file and description includes both authors. And on a more personal note, this post also marks my fifth anniversary as the host of New Books in Historical Fiction, since my first interview aired in November 2012.

For some reason, books occasionally arrive in pairs—meaning that out of nowhere a topic that has received little attention convinces two or more writers that it is novel-worthy, and those authors produce their finished products at more or less the same time. In this case, we decided to address the issues addressed by combining two shorter interviews into a single podcast. Both books explore the ramifications of Hitler’s decision to invade France, then attack Britain. Both examine the wartime leadership and postwar political defeat of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Both are set in Europe, especially the United Kingdom, between 1938 and 1946. Beyond that, they tell very different stories. 

In When It’s Over Barbara Ridley traces the experiences of Lena Kulkova, a young Czech woman who accompanies her socialist boyfriend from Prague to Paris, then follows him to Britain just before the Nazi forces invade the French capital. As Lena copes with life in a new country, itself threatened by war and increasingly suspicious of strangers, she yearns to reconnect with the family she left behind in Czechoslovakia. But only after the war, as socialism strengthens its hold on the British working class and threatens the political career of Prime Minister Winston Churchill, does Lena discover the fate of those she loves. 

Wickwythe Hall focuses on a crucial decision in the summer of 1940. When Hitler invaded France and the Vichy government agreed to collaborate with the Nazis, the British feared that the French navy would be co-opted and turned against them. Churchill issued an ultimatum to the French: turn over their fleet, sail it to a distant port, or see it annihilated. When the French, insisting they would not hand over their ships to the Germans, refused to negotiate, the British navy destroyed the fleet at Marseilles, with great loss of life. Through three overlapping and intertwined narratives Judithe Little reveals the short-term and long-term effects of this decision, and the war of which it formed a part, on individual lives.

Last but not, as they say, least, I am celebrating the imminent release of The Vermilion Bird (Legends 4: South) by placing the Kindle versions of the previous books in the series on sale for $2.99. The Winged Horse (Legends 2) promotion runs from Monday, November 27, at 8 AM PST (8 AM GMT in the UK), through Sunday, December 3, at midnight PST/GMT. The Swan Princess (Legends 3) goes on sale at 8 AM PST/GMT on December 4, through Sunday, December 10, at midnight. The Golden Lynx (Legends 1) is always priced at $2.99 and is available at Barnes and Noble and the iTunes Store as well as

This will be the last promotion until the release of The Shattered Drum sometime next year, although I do plan to bring out a box set of the first three Legends novels sometime in the next few months. So don’t miss your chance to get all three books at this $2.99 price.

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