For Beau by Simon Gandossi

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Title: For Beau

Author: Simon Gandossi

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: *****

Review: The opening to For Beau was good we meet Sarah who is going to be interview by Daniel Warwick about the blitz which she living through as the anniversary approaches. Daniel wants Sarah to tell him her whole story right from the beginning in September 1940. As Sarah recounts her story as a young married woman with her husband away fighting, she talks about a young girl named Beaux who everyone called Beau who she saw as a younger sister and her best friend Mary, who is pregnant by one of her many lovers with her fiancé fights side by side the Sarah’s husband.

As we approach the ¼ mark in the novel we see Sarah get in an argument with Beau where she sends Beau home after that an air raid hits and Beau ends up dead. Sarah feels so guilty but she isn’t the only person that day that loses someone they care about. Gandossi isn’t scared writing about the true horrors that can occur on the battle front and at home during a war. After visiting Beau in the morgue Sarah decides that everything she does from now on will be for that innocent little girl. Sarah also gets caught in a second raid but doesn’t get too badly hurt although in that moment she wanted to die and has previously contemplated suicide. Something changes in Sarah after Beau’s death and she decides that she is going to German occupied France and will fight there and although Mary and her father try to convince her otherwise she is determined to go and make a difference in the war.

As we cross the ¼ mark in the novel we see Sarah after many days get her father to admit her into army training to enter occupied countries. Sarah has to miss Beau’s funeral in order to go but she makes preparations to pay for the funeral, she also writes letters to her father and Mary as well as writing a short will should anything happen to her. I also liked every now and again the author brings us back to the present and reminds us that the majority of this novel is a story told by Sarah as an old woman. As Sarah begins her training with a few other women she is nervous but is determined to prove herself to the officers and especially to her father. The training is much harder than Sarah expected but she feels her father may have told the Captain to make it harder for her so she would fail and not go to France but she is adamant to do it for Beau. As Sarah starts training seriously she even begins to motivate the other girls and her story intrigues the people listening, although they have to stop for the day. After Edith is kicked of SOE training she commits suicide although Sarah wouldn’t find this out until after the war but she realises she isn’t as perfect as she first though although she is a quick and skilled learner. As Sarah and the other girls learn their basic practical and theory training we see Sarah rise to be the leader of the small group of military women.

As we approach the half way mark in the novel we see Sarah and the other girls complete their training and prepare for their first deployment. I liked the fact that we know Sarah survived the war because she is telling the story although she is becoming progressively ill. Once she lands in France and meets her connection Sarah now Emilie has to quickly prove her worth in a warzone. She meets another woman who helps with war effort but distracting Nazi’s with sex to stop them snooping around the resistance. As Emilie/Sarah sees the true horrors of the Nazi regime in France she is determined she will make a difference unlike so many before her and that she will return home to her family. The first mission Emilie is given is to retrieve some important resistance document from within the French home of a high-ranking SS officer. Emilie settles into her role very quickly and does not hesitate to kill anyone that may compromise her position within the resistance, she is also quick to pull the trigger pointed towards any Nazi she can get her hands on. Due to her lack of hesitation and fright and killing the Nazi’s the resistance turn Sarah/Emilie into an assassin of sorts and what she does in killing them hurts the German more than anything the resistance has done before. While telling her story there are a few people who disagree and disapprove of what Sarah did in killing Nazi children and German civilians but in the end she just did what she was ordered to do like every other solider not matter their nationality or allegiance.

As we cross the halfway mark in the novel we see Sarah/Emilie spending a lot of time in Paris but as she begins to grow restless she is told she will become Lise and is going to Berlin to put her superior skills to better use there in the heart of Germany. When she arrives in Berlin Lise contact is Imogen one of the girls she trained with back in Britain and despite her hard exterior Lise is glad to see a familiar face for once. Sarah/Lise is assigned to infiltrate the heart of SS by dating one of the high ranking officer like Imogen/Klarissa has been doing but she isn’t entirely comfortable with having sex with someone she wants to kill eventually. As her new assignment begins Lise is a little nervous but she feels that everything went a little too smoothly but overlooks it to focus on the task at hand. The deeper Lise goes into her cover persona the more she really sees of Germany and how the people have been brainwashed by a mad man, she doesn’t want to kill them especially the younger people but she knows there is no other way.  Klarissa and Lise’s mission becomes a vicious game of tug of war between the Germans and the resistance. When key members of the resistance are hanged Imogen and Sarah can’t break their cover so they swear by the time they are done with the German they won’t know what hit them and there will be peace in Europe once more.

As we approach the ¾ mark in the novel Lise soon learns there is a traitor within the resistance itself, I myself am suspecting Klarissa. When after they find the traitor information is still being leaked from someone deep inside the resistance and it’s around this time that Klarissa demeanour changes, so I was really suspecting her to be the one destroying everything Lise had worked so hard for, but with Lise out of action for a little while she falls slightly out of the loop. As the resistance tries to reorganize themselves after all the Nazi raids Klarissa is captured when she is caught the people in the resistance, this hits Lise hard but she has to protect herself as well or she could end up in the same position. After being forced to kill her friend in order to maintain her cover, Lise is going to be moved and her mission with Klaus aborted although I have a feeling Klaus won’t let her go that easily and she promises that Imogen’s death like Beau’s won’t be in vain. In a fit of rage and grief for her friend Lise kills Klaus, Karl, Kathe and a few others without even thinking about it but she also liberates their Jewish maid. I felt proud that Lise/Sarah had for once let herself feel and act human since coming to Berlin.

As we cross into the final section of the novel things begin to spiral out of control for Sarah, and when the true traitor is revealed Sarah is enraged as a small girl like Beau was taken to be hanged and now Sarah is going to risk her own life in order to save this single child. As things in Germany get worse the remaining members of the resistance want to send Sarah to Austria where she will be known as Maddalyn because she is currently wanted by the Gestapo. For one of her final missions Maddalyn is sent into a Nazi testing facility disguised as a nurse in order to rescue someone, as soon as she arrives she learns that this isn’t an ordinary hospital but a testing facility that has gassing chambers and she has to help walk the old, young and the sick to their deaths. As she continues to work in this facility Sarah begins to feel like she is losing her own mind because she can’t help these people under the watchful gaze of the Nazi doctors and nurses. After trying to rescue a child from the gas chamber Sarah is arrested and tortured by the SS. During her time with the SS Sarah is starved, beaten and raped for numerous occasions and as she is about to hang the resistance come to her aid. They offer Sarah the chance to go home but she doesn’t take it as she wants to see this through to the bitter end especially after what the SS have done to her. But in the end it is decided it is for the best if Sarah returns home for good. As Sarah’s story draws to a close and we see what her life was like after the war it is bittersweet. As we are drawn at last back into the present we see Sarah decided to tell her story now because her life was drawing to a close and when the world finally learns of her trails and achievements she is hailed a hero although she never got to see it.

Overall, I really liked For Beau despite hating most historical fiction. For Beau was well-written and devastating and heart-breaking but filled with hope and desire for a better future. I highly recommend For Beau to everyone.

This book was sent to me for review consideration by YA Bound Book Tours

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