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BLUE ISLAND by Jean Raspail


by Jean Raspail

Pub Date: April 18th, 1991
ISBN: 0-916515-99-0

Raspail (Who Will Remember the People..., 1988) here offers a fictional reminiscence about a charismatic youth who organizes resistance to German troops in the French countryside at the beginning of WW II: a touching story about coming of age under less-than-ideal circumstances. Bertrand (``bold and beautiful'') lures the narrator, the narrator's cousin Maite (Bertrand's girlfriend), and a few others to Blue Island, in the region of Touraine, for war games that become increasingly realistic as reports of the French government's dissolution filter, along with refugees, into the area. For the narrator, Bertrand ``had immediately peeled back our boundaries, shattering habits, lending an unexpected freshness to the humdrum workings of our imaginations.'' Juxtaposed to a running account of the real war, the narrator, in this ``feverish saga,'' at first nearly worships Bertrand as the group practices with rifles, paints their bicycles khaki, hauls an old iron trunk to Blue Island as a ``strategic reserve,'' and shows contempt for the adults, who are given to partridge hunts, genteel pursuits, and the pretense that all is well, at least until a flood of Parisian refugees arrives. The last section of the novel includes the journal of a German officer who's half-French, its passages making a counterpoint to Bertrand's increasing megalomania. Finally, Bertrand rallies his troops and ambushes a contingent of Germans. The German officer is eventually forced to kill Bertrand, and the story leapfrogs to the future to explain how the narrator, now a writer, came to write the book we're now reading. ``Leaving like climbing over a wall,'' the narrator asserts, and the dovetailing here of adolescent bravado and cynicism with historical drama makes for a mostly satisfying mixture.