9 March 2017
The book flows like a good novel, rather than being reduced to a statement of facts, or an academic style piece, peppered with footnotes, making it something which I think will definitely appeal to the average reader, rather than just to the history buff. It’s exciting, fast-paced at times, almost gut-wrenchingly tense at others, and I certainly found myself with a tear in my eye more than once during the final chapters. I can only imagine what I looked like on the various forms of public transport I travelled on while reading this book!
A lot happens in the few years (and the 241 pages) we spend with the Jacksons, and Kershaw manages to handle it without it being too heavy on the details, or without feeling like its being rushed.
The inclusion of quotes from Jacques Delarue’s The Gestapo: A History of Horror to break up the four sections of the book was a nice touch, not least because they highlighted both the horror of the Nazis’ secret police and of the occupation, but also as a reminder that we should never forget what happened during that period. It’s a book I’ll definitely be looking into reading in the future!
I really liked the fact that Kershaw didn’t just restrict himself to the Jacksons; his is an even richer tapestry, including the Gestapo leader living up the road, Sumner’s co-workers, Toquette’s family, American pilots trying to make their way home, and Resistance members never giving in, even under the cruellest of tortures. Characters are beautifully built up (again, not just something Kershaw restricts to the Jacksons), and even the lesser names, mentioned only in passing, should spark enough interest to send readers straight to Google to find out more.
This, I feel was an important inclusion in a book that, written by an American author, with an American lead in Sumner, could have gone in a distinctly American-friendly direction, playing a specific hero in order to maintain a specific interest (read: selling out). And while Kershaw does have his brave American doctor, Toquette is the primary resistance member and Philip is strong as the young man who finds his feet in an era of uncertainty – and all that alongside a really quite amazing cast of characters, male, female, young, old, French, Swiss, German, American.
The Jackson family, while the main characters, are the central link to so many other stories, and that, to me is the major strength of this book; that Kershaw picked a family that had so many connections and encounters that it’s almost impossible not to want to know more, not to find someone to follow down the internet rabbit hole; a family that shows the diversity of the Resistance, its scope, reach, and importance.
Avenue of Spies is a history book I would certainly recommend to non-history readers.
*Disclaimer: I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.*