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Friday, February 27, 2009

Evensong

Evensong, a blending of historical fiction, romance novel and war thriller, is set during the period in which Hitler conquers France and begins his bloody effort to keep her. Americans Christina Cross and her young sister have only recently arrived in the country but soon find themselves caught up in the struggle and fighting for their lives.

Christina’s story begins on a miserable farm in Kelly Flat, Missouri, where her father, a European opera singer and World War I veteran, started a new life with Christina and his French wife. Despite the near impossibility of eking a living from the farm, things suddenly get even worse and Christina is forced to take a job in town in order for her family to survive.

Senator Liam Caradine, owner of the small luxury hotel employing Christina, is struck by her resemblance to his lost daughter and decides to do all he can to make life easier for Christina and her family. Caradine quickly realizes that Christina is a remarkable singer and he takes advantage of an opportunity to have her sing at a West Point event, an event which just happens to include Laurent de Gauvion Saint Cyr in its audience. Laurent, a French army officer sent to West Point to collaborate with like-minded American military officers, is immediately attracted to Christina. Christina, however, knows that she loves the elderly senator and rejects the advances of the young Frenchman.

It is only when Christina and Nicolette, her little sister, go to France to live with their uncle, General Petain, that she becomes reacquainted with Laurent through a chance encounter. Despite the loyalty Christina feels toward her uncle, she soon finds herself in complete disagreement with his strategy to pacify Hitler and allows Laurent to recruit her into the French resistance.

As France and its allies fight the German army, Christina, Laurent, and even Nicolette, find themselves in the thick of things. Laurent is so in love with Christina that he is willing to risk his troops in an attempt to rescue Nicolette from the Nazi experimental death camp in which she has become a prisoner. Christina, unaware that Laurent is preparing to infiltrate the camp, decides to rescue Nicolette on her own. What happens next leads to an ending that is not what most readers will expect to read.

Evensong is an exciting, but seldom completely realistic, adventure. Much of its continuing action depends on extremely unlikely last-second rescues and superhuman endurance and strength from men who have been shot multiple times, burned by flame throwers or had limbs completely blown off them. The storyline depends so much on coincidence to move it along, and the situations and characters are handled so melodramatically, that the book seldom reaches the level of realism needed to give it the emotional depth demanded by its plot. The most compelling reason to read Evensong is for the way it describes the horrors of how children were handled and exploited in the Nazi death camps. That portion of the book is, indeed, very powerful.

Rated at: 3.0

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