This story is an interesting example of ‘what if’ plots, in this case what if the Nazis had conquered Eire, a country which in real history which was neutral during the Second World War. Credibly there is resistance of course, but also those who collaborated in various ways and some interesting moral points are raised during this very readable novel.
Roisin is in fact Rachel, child of a Jewish mother which in the eyes of the Nazis is reason to send her to a concentration camp. She has escaped Cork by the skin of her teeth to Dublin, but eventually her real name is discovered and friends Mary and Kevin become involved in her eventual escape by submarine to Iceland, where the Irish Resistance is beginning to plot the end of the occupation. Mary’s father has had to leave his family to be a leader of the resistance, but Kevin’s father, a local councillor has stayed to work alongside the Germans. Here lies the moral question, what would you do? Then there is Dennis O’Sullivan who has found his own way to act, collaborating for money and spying on his local community who subsequently suffer at the hands of his minder Vogts.
All this makes for a very credible story with considerable depth and very believable characters. The reader feels for Kevin who has the courage to make a brave stand for his friend Roisin to make her escape, and also for Mary who sees her father only in brief snatches. She helps in a daring attack on a prisoner train, and finds it hard not to let her younger siblings know that their father is still alive, and acknowledges her mother’s courage in covering for her husband and bringing the children up alone in this subterfuge.
The children’s ages are at the end of primary school, maybe it would have been better if they were slightly older to add credibility to the story, particularly as Mary is used in a prominent way to stop the train, and her father also reveals some serious secrets to her, but these do not get in the way of a good story, which raises some good questions for discussion.