The Light from the Dark Side of the Moon: A Novel
In 2014 Boston, 92-year-old Henry Budge, a retired, widowed history professor and WWII veteran, wants to attend the 70th D-Day ceremonies in France. But when he gets shot in the street doing a good Samaritan deed, and ends up in hospital and in rehab, his family vehemently opposes his travel plans.
In 1944 Henry is parachuted behind enemy lines and, after being injured, is cared for by a young Frenchwoman, Élodie, a resistance fighter. Henry falls in love with Élodie and not only assists her in resistance operations but also, evading German troops and taking great risks, they escort groups of young Jewish children across the Pyrenees to safety in Spain. Henry also gambles on being charged with desertion. Hence, Henry is so adamant about going to France that even though the doctors forbid him to fly, he decides to cross the Atlantic by ship. Booking sea and train passages and hotels secretly from his laptop, he steals away from his hospital’s convalescence room.
In the reader’s guide, Norman Gautreau indicates that he conceived the idea for this novel from several sources, particularly the true story of Bernard Jordan, an 89-year-old British veteran who escaped from a nursing home to attend the 70th commemoration of the D-Day landings, in which he’d taken part. The novel is superbly written, and although there are frequent time shifts between the present day and the war years, and even flashbacks within them, the interesting plot keeps the story moving forward. Some real-life people appear in the story, such as the Catalan cellist Pablo Casals and former President Obama, making his speech at Omaha Beach during the 2014 D-Day ceremonies. Moonlight plays a significant role in the narrative. Gautreau’s haunting images of the simultaneous shining of moonlight on the different theaters of the war and the “reflection from the dark side” are awe-inspiring.