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Tuesday, March 03, 2009

For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

I have previously read a couple of books by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. Both were aimed at young people, probably more at girls than boys, and well written and interesting. The first one I read, Leap of Faith, as the title suggests, was about a girl finding faith in God, in spite of her parents.

For Freedom: The Story of a French Spy (New York: Delacorte Press, 2003) is the apparently true story of a girl, entering her teens, in France, as World War II develops. The girl's name was Suzanne David. (Wikipedia has a very brief article on her, which seems to be based on the book, not on any external source.)

Suzanne's goal is to become an opera singer, and she achieves that, singing lead roles with the local opera society of Cherbourg, France, before she is sixteen. But her world is collapsing around her. Suzanne and her best friend are at the harbor when the first attack by the Germans strikes their city, and their consciousness. The air bombardment damages buildings, kills people, including a pregnant woman that the two girls knew, and were talking to, who dies in front of them. The best friend draws into some sort of shell -- she never speaks again, throughout the rest of the book, in spite of efforts by doctors, her mother, and Suzanne, to bring her back to normalcy.

The Germans take over Suzanne's house, kicking them out into the street with almost no notice, and little opportunity to remove their belongings. But they, and apparently most of the city, have a strong Catholic faith, which shows in various ways throughout the book. Her father tells her:
". . . our lives belong to the Lord. The Nazis have not taken our work, Suzanne. They have not taken your voice. They have not taken our courage or our faith. We haven't lost anything of value." (p. 46)

Suzanne is recruited by the local doctor, who, it turns out, is in the French Resistance. She carries coded messages to various members of a Resistance cell, never knowing their names, nor they hers, for many months. Finally, she is caught, but, at just that time, the Germans leave for Normandy, to try to repel an anticipated Allied invasion. They have not obtained any information from Suzanne, in spite of over a day of non-violent interrogation. She, and others in the prison, simply walk out, with nothing to prevent them.

The book tells how Suzanne has a problem with her voice, while singing in Paris, before she is arrested by the Germans. She never sings in an opera again. It also says that Suzanne fell in love with an American soldier, and left France to live in Tennessee, where she was living at the time of the writing of the book.

An inspiring story. It should remind those of us who now live in comparative safety and security that these conditions are not guaranteed to be permanent, and we may have to decide what to give up, or whether we should be committed to a fight against some powerful enemy. It is no wonder that this book was named a 2005-6 Junior Book Award winner.

Thanks for reading.

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