Night of Flames
In the opening days of World War II, Jan Kopernik and his wife, Anna, are separated by the German invasion of Poland. After a heroic but losing struggle against the invader, Jan, a cavalry officer, makes his way to England to continue the fight. Wanting to search for his missing wife, he volunteers for espionage operations in Poland, unaware that she has escaped to Nazi-dominated Belgium. There she becomes involved in the Resistance, helping downed fliers escape the Continent. Jan subsequently takes part in the campaign in Normandy, coming eventually to the Battle of Antwerp—tantalizingly close to the lost Anna, who is in the grips of a danger neither could foresee.
This absorbing World War II novel is well researched and skillfully executed. However, the title, based on the first night of the bombing of Warsaw, doesn’t do the book justice, as it covers virtually the entire length of the war in Europe. Jan Kopernik, in particular, takes part in many crucial operations over those years, which serve to highlight the notable contributions of Poles to the war. The descriptions of these battles are especially well written. Likewise, Anna’s plight illustrates that of many victims of the war. Although the addition of a nemesis in the person of a psychotic SS officer seems over the top, her character and reactions ring true.
This is a highly readable work which is both informative and imaginative.