I Can't Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan

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I Can't Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan

Category: Historical Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A story of courage and love in WWII Denmark. Impressively told and very readable. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 512 Date: August 2014
Publisher: Michael Joseph
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-0718178918

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Shortlisted: Romantic Novel Awards 2015 - Epic Romantic Novel

War came to Denmark in 1940 and people found that they had to take sides. British-born Kay Eberstern wasn't completely involved to begin with. She had obvious sympathies with the British but her husband had German ancestry and she could see Bror's point of view. But Bror went a little further than she thought necessary and openly sided with the occupying force because he felt the need to protect the family estate and the people who worked there. Gradually Kay came to realise that she could not - would not - accept this and she became increasingly involved with the Resistance movement.

I'll confess that I've become somewhat jaded by books about the first and second world wars. Much as I respect the sacrifices made by so many people it does seem that books on the subject have followed some well-worn paths with not a lot to lift many of them above the norm. I Can't Begin To Tell You is different. To begin with the setting is unusual. Much as SOE ignored Denmark in the second world war - unless it was to throw up a smoke screen that it might be the site of a land-based invasion - so authors have bypassed it, despite its rich history of resistance against the Nazis.

It's also a story of strong women. Kay Eberstern does what she believes to be morally right despite the cost to herself and her family, whilst her husband takes a more pragmatic approach. The men in her family are more likely to look to what serves them best in the long run whilst the women realise that practical action is needed now, even if it involves the rather distant concept of tying up Hitler's armies when he could otherwise be using them elsewhere. That's not to say that Kay - or her daughter who becomes involved in the fight - are without emotion, but they believe that other obligations must come first.

And it's not just about Denmark. Back in England there are the cypher clerks who receive the morse code messages from the agents on the ground (the pianists) who come to know 'their' agents, can identify their 'fist' and could tell if they were under pressure, but don't know who they are - or even where they are. The theme of strong women persists here too and if I have one quibble about this book it's that the men are more likely to be the pig-headed ones, whilst the women are the clear-sighted, logical beings. Oh, hang on a moment...

I really enjoyed the book and I cried at the end - and not just because I'd finished the book. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

For a WWII book which has stood the test of time we can recommend Above Suspicion by Helen MacInnes. I was also impressed by Wolfram: The Boy Who Went To War by Giles Milton, a biography which looks at the war from the German point of view.

Buy I Can't Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Can't Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan at Amazon.co.uk.

Buy I Can't Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy I Can't Begin to Tell You by Elizabeth Buchan at Amazon.com.


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