Violins of Autumn
by Amy McAuley
Publication Date: 19 June 2012
Walker Childrens, Hardcover, 336 pages
Behind enemy lines, the only option is bravery…
It’s 1944, and the world is at war. While most seventeen-year-old girls in London are running air-raid drills, Betty Sweeney is determined to make a real difference. Lying about her age, Betty joins the Special Operations Executive, a top-secret government agency that trains spies and sends them behind enemy lines. Now known by her secret agent persona, Adele Blanchard, she finds herself parachuting over Nazi Germany-occupied France, under the cover of darkness.
Joining forces with the underground Resistance movement, Adele must relay crucial messages in anticipation of the Allied invasion on D-Day – and even a small mistake could land her in the hands of the ruthless Gestapo. Prepared to die for her cause, Adele didn’t expect to become best friends with her fellow agent or fall for a handsome American pilot. With the brutality of war ever present, can Adele dare to dream of a future where the world is at peace and she is free to live and love of her own accord?
What first caught my attention was this book’s cover. Pearl Harbor was one of my favourite films of all time and the get up of the cover girl reminded me of it & completely captured me. It’s quite thrilling, picking a random book up at the library instead of looking them up beforehand on Goodreads. Feels a little like I’ve been transported back in time, before I became (regrettably) affected by book ratings and all that. Violins of Autumn is also a standalone book, which is sort of liberating in a way, given all the trilogies, chronicles and series I’ve been reading.
Anyway, Violins of Autumn was mainly about WWII, self-discovery, friendship and adventure. It wasn’t spectacular but it was very refreshing. My interest in history has definitely been piqued, giving me motivation to actually pay attention during class… Moreover, all the secret agent and spy stuff were really cool! There were quite a few points in the books where I got all teary-eyed because it was devastating, how the people in France had to live, while under the rule of the Nazis.
At first, reading the book was a little strange, since the protagonist had a similar name (or code name) with me. The name thing was another reason why I picked up this book too. I won’t lie, having similar names with the protagonist really made the story a lot more personal. My friends do call me Adele in real life so whenever Adele’s name was mentioned… it was strange yet cool. Name thing aside, I really loved Adele/Betty. She’s sort of lost and still finding her place in this world, but which teenager and young adult isn’t, really? Although she might be young, her courage and sense of responsibility is admirable. She knows many lives are depending on her and takes her job seriously. However, that doesn’t mean she’s some overly-mature, boring teen. How else would she have gained a best friend and two admirers?
Most characters in this book had their own little parts to play in the story and I loved that not all the German soldiers were portrayed as ruthless and evil. Everything in the book seemed realistic and I completely understood the required death of some much-loved characters (though that doesn’t mean I wasn’t sad about it). However, many details could have been better elaborated to further enhance the world-building of the plot and the links from one event to the next needs strengthening.
All in all, Violins of Autumn was a bittersweet, enjoyable read that’s thrilling and touching. I seriously hope there would be more historical YA books based on WWII because it was truly a hard time for people of all sorts to live through and so many interesting characters could be shaped from that time frame. Beautiful and somewhat light, this would make a pretty good book to read with some tea/lemonade and cookies.