Saturday, 8 June 2019

Review of "Occupation secret" by Mario Reading - an SS officer and a French farmgirl bond over music

After having survived the horror of the Eastern Front German SS commander Count Maximilian von Aschau is transferred to rural France where he and his men have to occupy a village and be ready to repel an invasion when it will come. En route to the small town battle hardened but still a devout catholic 28-old Max sees a young woman shelter from the rain in a small roadside chapel. He offers her a lift but the soaked girl refuses.

Lucie Léré.is a poor farmgirl with no education who never has been far away from home and is courted by a neighbour boy who was disfigured during the fighting when Germany invaded France. Her mother is supposed to send lunch to the German SS commander and sees an opportunity to earn an extra franc by pushing her daughter towards the lonely officer.

The two enemies who are worlds apart however bond over their mutual love for music. Danger however lurks around the corner.

This could be the script for a soppy romance story but it is written by a man and a bestselling author and although it is about the love affair between the two enemies it only occasionally mentions sex and deals with a lot more than just them. We also witness one of the biggest SS warcrimes and the violent ways of the Maquis and of civilians who have an account to settle.

There was one thing lacking in my opinion. The part of the Eastern Front depicts the Soviets as cruel adversaries - and they were - but the SS were no choirboys either and that is not that much mentioned. It is reasoned that Max had to join the SS to keep the Nazies away from their country estate as their neighbour was forced out of his due to his lack of support of the regime (I know a real case where they planned a motorway around a castle as a way of revenge) but I wonder if nobility would not have opted for a more traditional role in the Wehrmacht.

The story is a very good story. Although towards the end it feels a bit rushed (like the massacre at
the ruins of Oradour sur Glane

This was the real commander in that area
Oradour sur Glane  but maybe that feels like that to me as I have visited the site) and I would have liked the ending to have happened a bit later. A good epilogue would have been interesting. I wondered if that was due to the fact that this was a posthumous novel.

The cover however feels wrong. Max is described as a tall and thin guy with light blonde hair. The man on the cover is none of that. He also seems to wear the surcoat of the Wehrmacht. Was the SS uniform not black? And the woman on the cover looks like a lady while in the story Lucie is very young, very short and wearing poor cloths. What is worse is that it looks like the cover of another book with the same kind of plot but the more soppy variety and  at first I thought that book had been republished. So I would advice to change it so their age difference will be more clear and he will look more "scary" because that is what he is to the people who do not know him well.


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