Tags: BBC, book review, Channel Islands, fiction, Historical Fiction, lesbian artists, Libby Cone, Nazi occupation, rations, resistance movement, starvation during war, treatment of Jews during Nazi occupation, War on the Margins, wireless radio usage during WWII, WWII
War on the Margins: A Novel by Libby Cone
When France fell to the Nazis during WWII, the Channel Islands fell as well, despite the fact that they were a part of the British Commonwealth. Jersey, the Southern-most of the three islands, is the setting of Libby Cone’s novel about the way in which the Channel islands and its citizens were impacted by Nazi occupation. Here, we meet Marlene Zimmer, an anxious single, orphaned woman in her mid to late 20s working for the Jersey Aliens Office. This is where Jersey citizens were requested and then forced to register as Jews when they met the ever broadening requirements. Although she considers herself a Christian and a British citizen, her father was Jewish. When the office is finally instructed to classify Jews as foreigners, Marlene’s nerves can no longer take the stress. She leaves her work, her flat, and her identity behind to hide on the island in hopes of somehow surviving the remainder of the war. What she finds is work on the Resistance and a place to belong with Lucille and Suzanne, partners in life, art, and politics.
There are several stories told in this novel: Marlene’s reaction to Nazi occupation and her Jewish heritage, Lucy and Suzanne’s early life and current work resisting the occupation, and Peter’s journey as a Jew imprisoned and shipped to the Channel Islands for slave labor. Marlene is the main character and her life flows through those of Lucy, Suzanne, and Peter. I was most interested in Lucy and Suzanne’s story. They were fascinating women and I enjoyed reading about their work for the Resistance. As much as I liked Marlene, I would have loved to have read a novel entirely about them.
Intermixed within each character’s stories, there were chapters containing official communications between the Nazis to the Aliens Office and the registered Jews on Jersey requesting information about their status and their future. While Marlene worked for the Aliens Office, it made sense to me that they were there – as if Marlene was reading them and discovering what was happening. After that, If felt that they got in my way. This is partially due to the fact that the novel’s layout is structured with double spaces between lines which made these sections especially hard to read. After I found that I could follow the political changes easily through the context of the story, I began skimming and then skipping them altogether.
War on the Margins brought a perspective of the Resistance Movement during WWII that was unique and interesting. I found the strength and creativity of Lucy and Suzanne refreshing and engaging. This novel has encouraged me to look more into underground efforts against the Nazis in occupied territories. Although the formatting of the text was unusual, I quickly got used to it with the exception of the communication chapters. The novel read quickly and kept me interested throughout. It would suggest this book to anyone interested in WWII, living under Nazi occupation, and the Resistance.
To buy this novel, click here.