Stones Don’t Speak ISBN: 9781542621458, Ravenswood Press, an e-book about German occupied Norway during WW II by Gry Finsnes.
Plot: The reader is introduced to Ellen Langno, a young Norwegian concert pianist who has completed her studies in Vienna and just returned to Oslo where she is giving her debut concert. The time is October 1941and the concert is in the prestigious University Aula largely as result of help in booking from Hauptmann Roth, an officer of some power among the invading German military who has befriended her. It is highly successful but the obvious ‘help’ from a member of the hated Nazi invaders makes local residents suspicious with respect to her loyalties. She next is invited by Roth to perform for Terboven, the most recent Quisling-like ‘ruler’ at his new residence, that of the displaced Norwegian Crown Prince. In spite of wanting to refuse, she accepts and is subjected to unacceptable activities by some of the German officers literally being saved from rape by Eva, another young woman attending the concert. The two decide to join with other friends who are in the resistance movement. Roth becomes more attentive attempting to gain her aid in furthering his position in the military and as activities progress Ellen, her mother and father, move from Oslo to a small northern town purportedly to take care of her ailing aunt. From this interesting beginning, the reader embarks upon a trip through the recent past and evolving present life, of Ellen, her family, acquaintances and friends as she, and they, become involved in mounting resistance to the hated invaders. Also involved is her former fiancé, Fredrick, a violinist she had met during her studies in Vienna and actually was a large part of the reason for her return to conclude her studies after German occupation in 1940. He was an avowed pacifist who had been hiding so as not to become part of the German army. However, when she returned, she discovered he had disappeared and she was told that he had been killed. Thus, his totally unexpected reappearance as Freddie, a German soldier assigned to the same small town in the northern part of the country, was shocking to say the least. Further, his change not only in apparent beliefs but in status as a member of the hated enemy adds another dimension to the story as incident after incident occurs. There follows a fairly constant level of underlying suspense with respect to ‘what would happen to whom and when’ that continues to the end of the present volume.
Discussion: This is the second book in a trilogy with obvious entrée to the third but is a book that can stand alone. Ellen, the protagonist reminds one of the leading character in the author’s Goodbye Bombay – a well-educated, attractive, self-centered woman accustomed to attention (here as a performer) being thrust into a totally unfamiliar and distasteful situation to which she has little desire or inclination to attempt to address until the situation leaves little alternative. And, her attitude does in part offer explanation for some of Ellen’s attitude toward Freddie. In general, the story is well written but rather ‘glides over’ the deprivations suffered by the Norwegians during the German occupation, and descriptions of Gestapo activity mostly are dealt with in a rather cavalier manner. Perhaps, their activity was less extensively brutal and fear-producing in Norway than that reported as extant in all other occupied countries. Regardless, the book does provide in some ways an amusing, depiction of an overwhelming naiveté in the characters’ performance of espionage and resistance activities. Their actions would seem to have been effective only as a result of good fortune combined with sloppy efforts for discovery by individuals of somewhat lesser intelligence indulging in ineffectual attempts at doing their job as a result of overconfidence.
Conclusion: For this reviewer, this book is not as enjoyable a read as the author’s Goodbye Bombay. However, personal remembrances obviously are part of every reader’s thought processes. This volume certainly provides an appealing tale centered on a particularly disturbing time and place in history and in a location seldom visited by authors.
4* Engaging, somewhat suspenseful look at a seldom literarily visited time/place.