Violins of Autumn

Written by Amy McAuley
Review by Lucille Cormier

Violins of Autumn is the coded message to French patriots that the Allied invasion is imminent. But in the last days before that momentous event, England’s Special Operations Executive (SOE) forces continued to wreak havoc in occupied territories, sabotaging Panzer units, blowing up railways, and harassing German troops in every conceivable way. The story’s heroine, code-name Adele Blanchard, is a 17-year-old, newly-trained member of SOE. Her story begins as she parachutes into Normandy in May 1944 with another new recruit, the radio operator Denise Langford. Over the next three and a half months the two are involved in a series of harrowing experiences as they rescue a downed American pilot, become separated, and finally establish themselves in Paris only to be compromised by an unsuspected traitor.

Violins of Autumn is a young adult novel but it is also a good read for adults. It is historically factual with plenty of action, a little romance, and good character development. There are a couple of deus ex machina rescues that take away from the story’s credibility, and it is doubtful that anyone, much less a novice like Adele, could survive Gestapo torture, only parts of which are delicately described in the book. Still, I would recommend it to young readers as an introduction to a kind of war they cannot begin to imagine – and to all readers as a salute to the selfless heroism displayed by so many during that horrendous conflict.