Or perhaps just luck of the draw.
For the past year or so, I have read many stories about the London Blitz and also about the female spies of World War II.
At the risk of insulting our collective historical memory, let me review the Blitz.
In around 1939, the Nazis were marching pretty handily across Europe, invading Czechoslovakia, Austria, Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, France, the Channel Islands, toppling governments and sending whole populations of people to work camps.
Basically setting the platinum standard for European evil.
The British kept fighting (on the beaches, on the landing fields, etc., etc...) and in the late summer of 1940, Hitler sent a bomber to London.
It might be that the pilots got a bit turned around and only accidentally dropped a cartload of bombs on London's East End. It might be that the Germans were retaliating for a British raid that killed German non-combatants.
In any case, the German bombs landed in the heart of the city, destroying houses and killing civilians. Churchill responded by sending a fleet of bombers to hit Berlin. The British succeeded, and then did it a second and third time –– to the disbelief of the Germans, who thought nobody could get to Berlin.
Naturally, the Germans were outraged. Hitler vowed that if the British wanted to drop bombs on German cities, well by gum, the Germans would drop ten times as many on British cities.
So then began the Blitz –– the German bombers targeted civilian sites, landmarks, population centers, night after night. Tens of thousands of civilians died. Hundreds of thousands were hurt.
The bombardment went on without much stop until the following May, when thankfully, Hitler was distracted by the sparkly-sparkly toy that was Russia.
The Blitz was meant to terrorize the British, but instead of losing heart, the Brits dug in their heels. They sent their kids to the countryside, hunkered down in Tube stations, and continued to do business in a bombed-out city.
It was "Britain's finest hour," not the least because with the Germans focused on civilian targets, the Royal Air Force caught a break to rebuild their fleet.
Talk about stiff upper lip.
With the Blitz, I suppose part of the pleasure is knowing that it ended. And that the bad guys did not win. With this setting, I've been enjoying a whole host of novels and the odd non-fiction volume.
Here's a trio of recommendations:
In Sarah Waters' The Night Watch, the Blitz is the catalyst for the heartbreaking love affair at center stage.
The novel begins in a grey and tired 1948 and runs backward, tracing the fates of four Londoners to the flash-lit beginning in 1941.
Amazing period detail, wrenching emotion, and astonishing characterization makes me wish I'd written this novel.
From Connie Willis, a pair of double-decker novels called Blackout and All Clear are set in the Blitz and focuses on how ordinary people survived it.
In Blackout, historians from Oxford in 2060 travel back in time to observe the Blitz firsthand. As one might expect, their expedition into the past goes awry and they are unable to return home.
All Clear continues the story to its suspenseful conclusion. It's not for everyone, this cement block's worth of story, but it's among my favorites. It juggles multiple storylines with humor, pathos, and a dollop of historical facts for a long immersive experience.
Everyone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave turns out to be an examination of the variations of bravery –– from the courage of battle, to the strength to simply keep carrying on –– shown by a handful of Londoners.
Based loosely on the story of the author's own grandparents, the novel is engaging and bittersweet. I gobbled it up over a weekend.