Cross my Heart
A tragic adventure story set in WW2 Belgium, Cross my Heart follows Nicole, who at fifteen joins the Resistance. In a time of desperate shortages of food and fuel, everything that can be is sold to buy food. Only the ironwork remains on park benches. The wood has been taken for fuel. Nicole’s father is missing, and she is captured. Her situation is grim. Escaping from a work camp, she endures terrible hardships trying to get home, but eventually is led by a priest to a Resistance group.
This is an appealing story of codes, hiding places, winter and starvation. It is a book of arguments and violence too – from the Gestapo, Nazi soldiers and from Nichole’s mother and grandmother. What concerns me is that Cross my Heart could be taken as an exciting read for teenagers, possibly conditioned by films and TV to accept violent revenge, against that more adult, and difficult, option – peace and reconciliation. Nicole quotes Churchill, claiming that he said, ‘Never, never, never, never give in.’ He actually said, ‘Never, never give up.’ This misquotation seems to be the justification for a book of violence and terror, though I hope that thoughtful readers would understand that it’s the principles of forgiveness and caring, not aggression, which are the more positive and enduring.
The action continues until the very end when Nicole reaches the comparative safety of home and a surprise revelation. I have several caveats: Carmen Reid has Jeeps in 1940, two years before the Americans joined the Allies; tights which were not then seen except on the stage or on children; and calls Churchill ‘Sir Winston’ over a decade before he was knighted. Surely, it’s not difficult to check these things.