by Jenny Harrison
Dead Before Curfew is an absorbing, fast paced novel. It is written in the present tense with new developments coming rapidly, one after another.
Set during the Second World War, the main protagonist, Matthew Flint, is a British soldier with a flair for languages. Flint’s poorly trained and equipped regiment is posted to France. They expect the war to be over by Christmas but are caught off guard when German tanks break through the allied defences. Flint tries to get away but is eventually captured by the German army. The allies retreat through Dunkirk but the prisoners face a long gruelling haul as they are transported by train to a Prisoner of War camp in Poland. This is where the main story begins.
Matthew Flint is assigned to a vehicle maintenance workshop, where his ability to speak fluent German is noticed by the Polish mechanic he is working with. He manages to escape, and the mechanic arranges temporary shelter in various people’s homes, until he and other escapees can be smuggled out of Poland. Flint develops a great regard for the Polish people and decides not to leave but to help the local people and their “underground army”. He gains their confidence, carrying messages at first but over time is given increasingly difficult and dangerous assignments. He also meets and falls in love with Olivia, who is doing equally hazardous work, rescuing Jewish children from the infamous Warsaw ghetto.
The story includes a lot of characters, many of whom do not survive very long, and the reader has to keep alert as to who is who. Flint goes under several Polish aliases.
Both Flint and Olivia are well drawn and empathetic characters, who take great personal risks for the sake of others. The atmosphere of fear in the city under occupation is well defined – the presence of an overbearing police force, ordinary people walking in the streets with eyes downcast, the scarcity of life’s necessities. Despite all this, there is the generosity of people left with little or nothing, risking all for the sake of strangers as well as fellow citizens. Yet many still lived in hope, as represented by the sunflower, the symbol shown on the book’s cover.
The events and atrocities described took place over 78 years ago. Many would wish them consigned to history. But the atrocities did happen and are too terrible to be forgotten. Dead Before Curfew should help ensure they are not.
Author: Jenny Harrison
Publisher: Lamplighter Press
Available: Piako Stationers, Te Aroha, Tea Rose Crafts, Te Aroha, Alo Gifts Morrinsville. Also from author at www.jennyharrison-author.com