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Book Review: The Girl in the Blue Beret

Another week, another book read! This week's book comes from my lovely big sis (Thanks Len!) and I was super excited when I found it tucked away on my shelf! It goes back to the WWII kick I've been on, but was totally different than any of the others I've read!

If you need a refresher on why I do a weekly book review, check it out here!

So, with no more ado, here is my review of The Girl in the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason!

The Girl in the Blue Beret begins in the 1940's when Marshall Stone's plan crashes in Belgium. He gives a brief recount of his escape to Paris, then into Spain, and finally back to his base in England.

The story then jumps to the 1980's, where Marshall is now an airline pilot facing retirement. On his last run to Paris, he stops back at the crash site, and decides he wants to track down the people who helped him escape back then.

Now that he's retired from his airline, he moves from the States to Paris, where he gets a small apartment and settles into Parisian life.

He soon decides to travel to Chauny, one of the villages he stayed in with the Albert family. He goes there and finds the family still living in the same house. He thanks them for all they did, and their son, Nicholas, volunteers to help Marshall find the other people who helped him.

Marshall returns to Paris, and wonders looking for the apartment, and the family, he stayed with in the 40's. He isn't able to find them, but he does return to some of the spots he visited back then, reliving hiding under the nose of the German soldiers who occupied Paris back then.

Nicholas soon finds info on Robert Lebeau, who helped Marshall. He makes contact with his daughter, but she says they had a falling out, and she no longer knows where he is. Marshall struggles to put the info he learns about Robert in with the image he remembers.

Eventually, Nicholas calls saying he found Annette Vallon, the girl in the blue beret, who he had stayed with in Paris.

Marshall goes to visit her, and they reminisce about him staying with her and her family during the Occupation. He soon learns that Annette and her family, along with Robert and their priest where arrested for hiding aviators, and all sent to concentration camps. Annette and Robert survived. Annette soon recommends the pair go hike the trail Marshall took to leave France. The novel ends with the pair becoming a couple and climbing to the summit.

I really enjoyed The Girl in the Blue Beret. It was a different take on a WWII novel. The ones I have read so far are happening during the war itself; this is the first one I've read where it's taken place after but still includes so much of the war itself. I think Mason framed the novel in such a great way, starting with Marshall's crash, then jumping forward so he can retrace his path trough France and Spain.

Some of the dialogue felt a little stilted. I'm not sure if it's because the novel is set in the 80's (maybe that's how people talked back then), but I occasionally found it jarring enough to wonder who would actually talk like that? I liked that Mason incorporated so much French, both in the action and the dialogue. It really placed you in Paris, which I liked, but someone who doesn't have a very rudimentary knowledge of French is probably going to have to Google some words.

I liked Marshall, for the most part. I felt he was a decent protagonist. I didn't find myself rooting against him, but neither was I rooting for him. I wish there had been a little more urgency to the plot. For the most part, Marshall is just wandering around Paris. I liked getting to revisit Paris through this novel, but I wish there had been a little more action in the parts set during the present. The action that took place in the 40's was great, with Marshall running and hiding, and I wish the bulk of the novel matched that level of intensity.

All in all, I have to give The Girl in the Blue Beret by Bobbie Ann Mason a 4 out of 5! I think the framing was clever; I just wish there had been a little more action.

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