October 25, 2012
How Angels Die by David Michael Harding
I bounced back and forth between liking this book and not liking it. There were several elements I appreciated, excitement, adventure, strong female characters. But I had some difficulties with some of the characters, and with the pace of the book as well. After mulling it around in my head for a little bit, I came down right in the middle on this book, enjoying it, but not being overly thrilled.
Claire and Monique are two sisters that have come of age during the French resistance against the Germans. Both work for the Resistance, a small band of rebels intent on making life difficult for the Germans in their city. But they do it in very different ways. Monique gets the Intel; which means dancing and charming the German officers in the city and giving them what they want. Claire however will have none of that, she would rather have a gun in her hands and bullets flashing around her to do her part for the Resistance. And they clash quite frequently as a result of their different approaches. But things are changing, the Germans are getting harder to allude and Monique finds herself more than just attracted to her latest mark. With no end to the war in sight, it's very hard for the sisters to keep doing what they believe in.
I like Monique. In fact, she was my favorite character. I thought she had charm, did what she had to do, and was actually quite believable in the way she handled herself. Her sister Claire on the other hand I just couldn't relate to. I know some people have an obsession that takes over them, but Claire's hate for all things German was so strong that it was somewhat unbelievable at times. I even thought her a bit dense when she was supposedly being presented as a brilliant young fighter. I'm sure we can blame much on youth, but her overall activities and thoughts made me not care for her at all and I really didn't care what happened to her in the book. Monique's German officer was written quite well at least. Even though he was supposed to be a bad guy in this book, he was made real and did a good job of showing that in war there are several shades of gray. The other side characters were ok but we're never really given more than glimpses of them to form attachments. They're mentioned, and some even have back-stories, but they are very much secondary to the sisters and we aren't given enough to be overly concerned about their fates.
The plot was reasonably good. I liked the idea of the two sisters each fighting the war in their own way. And while I found Monique's story more compelling than Claire's, hers definitely served a purpose in the book overall. I can't comment much on the history because I've never really learned about the French or their resistance during the war, but it didn't go into too much detail on certain events so it seemed plausible to me at least. I wouldn't read this book for a history lesson, but it does give an overall theme for the time. The book started out at a great pace, I was drew in wondering what was going to happen with the sisters. But then, about halfway through the book it suddenly sped up, all sorts of things started happening, and it became a little implausible. In fact, for a book that was so gritty in detail and believable, the ending is downright sappy. I thought I had stumbled into a book where another writer had finished the last couple chapters because it was so unlike everything else in the book. But that's all I'll say on the matter as to not spoil it for someone who wants to read the book. And when I say the writing is gritty I mean it. There is violence, murder, rape, cussing and a myriad of other unsavory things in this book so if you are a reader of gentle disposition, you have been warned. I appreciated it though as war isn't pretty, and this reflected that sentiment.
It was an entertaining read and while I thought there was much that could be improved on in the book, it won't cause me to shy away from any more of Harding's works. If I see another book out there by him I would pick it up and read it.
How Angels Die