Mary Rosie’s War by Catherine Byrne

 This book, number 5 in the Raumsey series, not only portrays the horrors of WWII through the eyes of simple, ordinary participants, but sheds a sidelong glance at the morality of a war initiated at some high level, far away from those who are forced to carry it out without understanding why.

Antisemitism with it’s irrational agonies pops up, as do the frequent passions and tensions experienced by servicemen and women who daily fear they or their partner might not see another day.

The book starts slowly but contains some great turns of phrase, e.g. ‘the leaden skies outside wept their misery on Caithness’ or ‘the fighting had become as common as the cry of the seals back home.’ It’s when a half-dead, pregnant young German Jewess appears out of the blue, that the pace increases, the interlocking plots begin to thicken and the drama to simmer and finally boil.

Overall, we gain a vivid insight into the simple, harsh life in the far north of Scotland, coloured by the realistic dialects of the primary characters. Their emotions and difficult choices are well developed and culminate dramatically and rather unexpectedly, leading to a somewhat abrupt finale.

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