Hedy’s War (UK) / The Girl from the Channel Islands (US)

Written by Jenny Lecoat
Review by Jasmina Svenne

After fleeing from Vienna to Jersey after the Anschluss, Hedy Bercu finds herself trapped and in danger once more when the Germans invade the Channel Islands in 1940. Her employers have fled; her only friend Anton, a fellow Austrian, has a new girlfriend, Dorothea, whom Hedy finds naïve and faintly irritating; and her Jewishness means that, ironically, the only job Hedy can find is as a translator at a German camp. There she meets Lieutenant Kurt Neumann, a decent man caught up by events larger than himself. The attraction between them is instant, but could well be their downfall if they cannot stay one step ahead of the secret police.

Screenwriter Jenny Lecoat’s debut novel is based on an extraordinary true story of resistance and love against the odds. As a native of Jersey, she clearly knows the island well and its wild coastline, extreme tides and the backstreets of St Helier. As might be expected from an experienced writer (albeit in a different medium), the central characters are complex and well-developed. A tight rein is held on the plot, and the atmosphere of menace and paranoia is skilfully built up. The fact that the story the novel is based on is not well-known also means that the reader has no idea whether it will end happily or what the next twist might be. The only real criticism I have is that I would have liked a slightly more detailed historical note at the end of the book, to explain how much is actually known about the characters and events it depicts and what is conjecture.

Recommended, particularly for anyone with an interest in the Nazi Occupation of the Channel Islands.