1942, Nazi-occupied Norway
Schoolteacher Astrid Dahl has always kept out of trouble. But when she is told to teach the fascist Nazi curriculum, she refuses and starts a teacher’s rebellion, persuading eight thousand teachers to go on strike. The Germans arrest her, and terrified of what punishment her trial might bring, she is forced to go into hiding.
Astrid’s boyfriend, Jørgen Nystrøm, has joined the Norwegian Resistance. When his cover is blown he escapes to Shetland where he is taken on as crew for the Shetland Bus; a dangerous clandestine operation of small fishing boats that supply arms and intelligence to war-torn Norway.
In Shetland, hearing Astrid is in trouble, Jørgen sets off through enemy waters to meet her. But the Nazis have a spy on Shetland and have been tipped off about the Shetland Bus. With the enemy in pursuit from both directions, will Astrid and Jørgen be able to find each other? Or will they be separated forever by the brutal Nazi regime?
Having previously read The Occupation, Deborah Swifts’ story about Nazi occupied Jersey, I was sure that this book would give me an accurate picture of what it had been like to live in Norway in the 1940s. Under the government of President Quisling, a Nazi sympathiser, the Gestapo gradually increased their influence on everyday life for the Norwegian people and a Resistance group, Milorg, was established. Our two protagonists, Astrid, a teacher and Jørgen, a member of Milorg reflect very different positions in society. Astrid is independent but rather shy, Jørgen is a confident, popular young man who has already had training for espionage in Britain with the SOE. The two have recently begun a relationship, against Jørgen’s better judgement because he knows as an undercover radio operator he could easily be discovered, but soon after Jørgen disappears, Astrid raises her head above the parapet and has to go into hiding.
Not only does this book show the harsh realities of life under a Nazi regime but it also shows us how Astrid grows as a young woman, taking responsibility for the safety of a young Jewish girl, Sara, and her father, Isaak, and sharing an arduous, dangerous journey with them, across Norway. Meanwhile Jørgen has to deal with a new companion, Karl, an Olympic skier. Can he be trusted? As time goes by and problems mount, can Astrid and Jørgen ever have a future together? The story moves towards a thrilling conclusion and what a wonderful film this would make!
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