An extraordinary wartime memoir, combining the best kind of adventure story with a coming-of-age testimony of unforgettable resonance and poignancy.
September 2011, Halkidiki, Northern Greece: A solitary 86-year-old man gazes across an Aegean headland, knowing that he must finally confront his past. He begins to write...September 1939, Nieppe, Northern France:14 year-old Stephen is living with his family, 25 kilometres from Ypres. His French mother battles with her encroaching blindness. Failing to escape the advancing German army, his English father can no longer look after the war graves that cast so heartbreaking a shadow across the region. Stephen and his friend Marcel embark upon their great adventure: collecting souvenirs from strafed convoys and crashed Messerschmitts.
But their world turns dark when arrested and imprisoned for sabotage and threatened with deportation or the firing squad. Upon his release, and still only 16, Stephen is recruited by the French Resistance. Growing up under the threat of imminent betrayal, he learns the arts of clandestine warfare, and - in a moment that haunts him still - how to kill....
Such was the impact of Stephen Grady's work for the French Resistance, (especially during the countdown to D-Day and its bloody aftermath) that he was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the American Medal of Freedom.
©2013 Stephen Grady and Michael Wright (P)2013 Hodder & Stoughton
I actually heard about this book during a radio book review and I sought it out. Honestly, I'm an audible vetran and this book is the Usain Bolt of audio book world, it's sheer gold.
It's such a straight forward, well narrated story of heroism and guts that it is quite simply, astounding. It's written in an almost modest, apologetic way. To all those people of that time involved in the French Resistance, I salute you. To a man and women you should all tell you tale.
An old man, an English gardener who tended the war graves, sitting on his balcony on a Greek Island is absorbed in the past.... His son keeps nagging him to write it down.
Thus begins a compelling true story, of growing up as a teenager in the French resistance. As the son of an English "Tommy" from the First World War, who married a French woman and settled down in France, Stephen is 16 when the Second World War breaks out. He watches as the soldiers march out to the war, and is proud to see the British Expeditionary Force among them.
All too soon however, the army is in retreat, and fighting draws near, sweeping over their village as the German army advances. For Stephen, and his friend from school, this is a golden opportunity to gather up a wealth of discarded guns, ammunition, bombs and smoke grenades (some of which they let off), and stash them as treasures. However, when the Germans arrive, things take a turn for the worst, and they realise their stash could get them and their families into serious trouble.
I found I could not put this story down. Something about the courage, daring shown, and danger that they lived under constantly, with Stephens father always in hiding (because he was British), their illicit radio tuned to the BBC, and the daring, often criminal acts of defiance Stephen took part in. It is a story of resistance under occupation, of loyalty, heroism, criminality, betrayal, cowardice, obligation and most of all, of ordinary and extraordinary people under pressure.
A clever device, the narrative is read initially and at the end by an old man, who might well be Stephen Grady himself, but as you go back in time in the narrative, a younger voice takes over. It is excellently and believably delivered by both in an English accent.
If you like true stories, of people in extreme situations, I really recommend this audiobook.
From London, now living in France.
I loved this book and was utterly gripped. It was beautifully read with a wonderful transition at beginning and end from an elderly voice to the main narrator, which in itself was moving. This is a true story about a young Anglo-French boy growing up during the Second World War and his desperate need to make some impact against the occupation. His adventures begin in a low key fashion but cause him to be arrested; later he is recruited for the Resistance itself. It has the feel of a novel because it seems almost impossible to be true; and yet, of course, it is. It's one of the best books I have heard for a long time, and puts the sentimental novels set in occupied France to shame!
The beginning is about the high jinx of the author as a boy and just when one wonders how long this is going to continue it develops into the Resistance story. Told with total humility the story tells both the author's actions and his feelings. I am sorry it ended
This was a really good book. It covers several genre in one book:- adventure, war, history, as well as rites of passage from childhood into manhood. I found it gripping and credible
The narrators really brought it to life. Poignant and harrowing and well worth a listen. Just showed the bravery of ordinary citizens.
"great book, though with a technical problem"
The book is very good and interesting. There's a problem, which is probably caused by the editing of the recording.
In the chapter 25, minute 5,20 ( according to the recording order, not the book order ), suddenly you get the same part of the book that appeared some hours before.
This repetition lasts until the minute 14, which is the end of the chapter 25, and then the story continues correctly with chapter 26. The main problem is that you don't know if this mistake implies that you got the wrong recording during these 9 minutes and you are missing the good one, therefore missing a part of the book.
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