The Lifeline

Written by Deborah Swift
Review by Jon G. Bradley

“I never wear my paperclip now,” Astrid replied, “it’s just asking for trouble.” A complex narrative, this story takes place during the early years of World War II in Nazi-occupied Norway. Embedded in this well-written, engaging tale are intrigue, betrayal, love, double dealings, lost opportunities, adventure, sacrifice, and daring deeds, along with the omnipresent possibilities of internment, torture, and death.

While not necessarily central to the specific activities of the protagonists, the overarching sub-theme of betrayal permeates the entire volume. How do some citizens accept and support an invader while others struggle? A paperclip worn on the lapel, for example, demonstrates silent but observable resistance.

Through the eyes of the two main characters – a schoolteacher and her boyfriend – the reader witnesses firsthand the human strains as this society is ravaged by occupation.

Norway has been conquered, existing societal structures remodeled, and the school curriculum revised to showcase a new reality. The majority of Norwegian teachers refuse to teach this imposed pro-Nazi curriculum and engage in numerous disruptive techniques to thwart the initiative. Ultimately partially successful, the Norwegian Teachers’ Strike does indeed force concessions from the authorities.

Parallel to these societal upheavals, an active Resistance is emerging. Supported by the British, agents and supplies are moving in and out of the country via the “lifeline” called the Shetland Bus. In this highly dangerous clandestine operation, beset by weather and German forces, small craft silently traverse the 300 or so kilometers between the Shetland Islands and Norway to deliver Resistance personnel and supplies but, also, to bring to safety those who had been compromised or who are fleeing possible imprisonment for actions or religious beliefs.

Interestingly, Swift does not conclude her narrative with a neat bow. All is not settled. Further intrigues are foreshadowed.