Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday Book Review: Night of Flames

A novel or World War II by Douglas W Jacobson 

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: McBooks Press (October 1, 2008)
ISBN-13: 978-1590131664 


From the Publisher:

Painting a vivid and terrifying picture of war-torn Europe during World War II, this tale chronicles the lives of Anna, a Krakow University professor, and her husband Jan, a Polish cavalryman. After they are separated and forced to flee occupied Poland, Anna soon finds herself caught up in the Belgian Resistance, while Jan becomes embedded in British Intelligence efforts to contact the Resistance in Poland. He soon realizes that he must seize this opportunity to search for his lost wife, Anna.

My review:

Major Jan Kopernik of the Polish Cavalry Brigade, the 29th Uhlans, says it best: “The German blitzkrieg was not just a military strategy – it was an all-out campaign of terror intent on the total destruction of his homeland.”

Night of Flames is a well-detailed fictionalized account of the Nazi campaign in Poland, and the eventual resistance. Anna Kopernik, an associate university history professor in Krakow, her husband Jan, a major in the army, and Anna’s father, Thaddeus Piekarski, give their first-hand account of life during this terrible time. From being front and center when Warsaw is bombed, to watching the Luftwaffe bomb farmers on the roads and rural villages, to the occupation of Krakow, to joining the resistance, each of them deal with the tragedy. 

Thaddeus decides to be patient at home, believing the Allies will rescue the city soon. Jan leads his brigade into battle trying to defend a poorly prepared country that still depended on civilian telephone lines and beasts of burden to move equipment on their poor roads; Anna and her Jewish friends return to Krakow from a visit to Warsaw where the Nazi occupation edicts put them all in danger. 

Anna and Jan do the best they can to live long enough, fighting for their homeland, to find each other again. Anna gets involved in the resistance when she escapes to friends in Belgium just before Jan comes to Krakow on business for the exiled government because of his ability to speak German.  

Jacobson’s attention to detail shows his respect for the era, for the events, equipment, geography and technology of the time, even weather patterns and clothing and food. While perhaps circumstances seem aligned in perfect favor for the characters, the account is fiction, and fiction asks for the ability to take a leap of faith upon occasion. 

Realistic to the point that I occasionally buzzed through detailed battle accounts, Jacobson’s Night of Flames will offer readers who enjoy well-documented World War II history a great few hours back in time.
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