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The Girl in the Blue Beret: A Novel by…

The Girl in the Blue Beret: A Novel (2011)

by Bobbie Ann Mason

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2021658,111 (3.27)18



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The Girl in the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason is the story of a World War II vet who returns to France to find the people who helped him when his plane was shot down. It's the story of an aspect of the French resistance I knew little about prior to reading this book.

I found it interesting that many women who have reviewed The Girl in the Blue Beret, were put off by Marshall Stone, the main character, by the way he seemed to move on quickly after the death of his wife. His lack of mourning disrespected her memory. I read another book recently where the same situation occurred with the gender roles reversed. I reacted to that story more than this one. I suppose it is because I could identify with the man who died prior to the beginning of Turkmen Captives by Susan Williamson more than I could identify with Lorretta in Mason's work. A reader brings his or her own perspective to a novel, which is why a book can be very different for different people.

Marshall is cold in the beginning, but I give him points for recognizing his flaws. In one section he says the downing of his plane in occupied France was the worst day of his life, then feels guilty that he relegated the death of his wife to the second worst day. I also believe he opened up as the emotions from the rediscovered war memories got to him. Characters in a good novel change along the journey and Marshall certainly did.

There's an unusual distance in this book that works well, given the subject matter. The vast majority of the story is told in the characters' dialog, as they reflect on their experiences, so it is a second hand story. Although “show don't tell” is a good axiom for beginning writers, experienced writers generally use what is appropriate for what they are trying to accomplish. Bobbie Ann Mason decided to “tell” this book and I think her choice works.

This is a good book for people who like historical fiction in a World War II setting.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions ( )
  SteveLindahl | Nov 29, 2014 |
An intriguing use of family history as the basis for a novel, and very interesting in its perspective on the French resistance movement. I enjoyed reading it and found it useful as a book to read in small sections before bed: sufficiently compelling without demanding that I continue. It's difficult to balance careful research (which this work appears to have in abundance) with the emotional dynamics of storytelling. In this case, the narrative feels like a deftly built container to hold an understanding of an era and several types of people who inhabited that time.

I didn't have the problems with disjointedness that other readers did, and although I did look for a page beyond the ending I also found that the closure was satisfying in that it sidestepped cliché.

The dialogue, which others have felt was stilted, reflects the locutions of French rendered in English. I never quite decided what I thought of the technique. It didn't annoy me, but it never felt completely natural and I think it also reinforced a sense of emotional distance.

I am glad that I read it. If a book doesn't meet basic, stringent criteria, I don't finish it. The fact that The Girl in the Blue Beret passed that test is significant. ( )
  robson663 | Jun 20, 2014 |
Okay story just a bit of a dull read ( )
  lindap69 | Apr 5, 2013 |
Slow moving plot line but interesting background on a branch of the French resistance who specialized in guiding Allied pilots out of France over the Pyrenees to Spain. Excellent source notes for fiction.
More interesting as history than as prose ljh 4/2/12
  PotomacLibrary | Apr 2, 2012 |
This is the first novel I read in this year’s List Swap Challenge. Since I failed so miserable at last year’s challenge, I am determined to succeed this year. Something I really like about this challenge is Julie usually picks books that are well outside my reading comfort zone. I am not a thriller reader. I like my drama to come in the form of woman with woe is me syndrome. I have to admit, I was over the moon when Julie chose this one for me. I am a huge fan of novels based during World War II. I couldn’t wait to dive into it and chose it as my first read in the challenge.

I was optimistic for The Girl in the Blue Beret. This novel is on an interesting subject I knew nothing about. I really had no idea what the French people went through and what sacrifices they made in order to help the Allied Airmen return safely to England. I admired the courage and strength of the Resistance. With such great risk, they hid, fed, and moved these Airmen to safety. For anyone interested in learning more about the Escape, Invasion, and the Resistance, Ms. Mason listed several books in her Selected Bibliography.

When I finished this novel, the first thing I thought was, “What a letdown.” That is not the sign of a good novel. Up until then I had a like/indifferent feeling about The Girl in the Blue Beret. I believe I was indifferent because although Marshall’s journey and his relationship with members of the Resistance were fascinating, I didn’t feel a kinship to Marshall at all. He seemed unfeeling, distant, almost egotistical. I didn’t get the feeling that he experienced the escape from Germany occupied France himself, but rather that he was relaying someone else’s journey. Even when he discussing his flight crew, I felt less than sympathetic to him. Marshall returns to Paris after his retirement to reconnect and thank the people who helped him escape. He was particularly fond of a Parisian family with two young daughters. Marshall formed a bond with Annette, the oldest and the one in the blue beret.

On his return to Paris, Marshall located Annette who was living life in the country as a widow. Marshall and Annette had an instant link, a bond based on grief, respect and appreciation. I think their connection wasn’t magical or amazing in any way. There was an element of creepiness in the way Marshall still thought of Annette as the girl in Paris in 1944. Even as his adult relationship with her grew, I couldn’t shake thinking of him as a dirty old man. I have a feeling that Annette being Annette would have acted the same way towards any of the other Airmen who stopped by for an unexpected visit. I know that doesn’t sound right, she wasn’t a loose woman or careless with her feelings. In fact, she was the opposite. She was centered, real. She guarded her experiences and because of those, she enjoyed every moment of every day she faced.

The shining star of the novel, the shift from indifference to like was when I met Annette as an adult woman. She was breathtaking. She had a joie de vie that was contagious. She was truly inspirational, spirited, and courageous. She drew me in and even as a fictional character, I was honored to know her, and spend time with her.

Above all, I found this novel missed the one thing that would have made it a 4, even a 5 in my book. It was missing heart. The girl in the blue beret had it, but sadly the prognostic did not. ( )
  ForSix | Feb 13, 2012 |
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Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven! --William Wordsworth, "The Prelude"
Dedicated to Michele Agniel and to the memory of Barney Rawlings (1920-2004)
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As the long field came into view, Marshall Stone felt his breathing quicken, a rush of doves flying from his chest.
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An American World War II pilot shot down in Occupied Europe returns to his crash site decades later and finds himself drawn back in time to the brave people who helped him escape from the Nazis.

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