"April 9, 1940:
Peace-loving Norway is invaded by Nazi Germany. Although unprepared for an invasion, the Norwegian military puts up a valiant fight for several weeks before disbanding. The King and parliament escape to England. Now the Nazis are fully in control.
Or are they. . .?"
The occupying Germans expect Norwegians to welcome them as protectors against the Soviet Union. But why? They think that the Norwegians embody the ideal of the Aryan race, being fair-haired, blue-eyed, tall and fit.
Unexpectedly, the Norwegians confront the occupying force with hostility and resistance. There is not only an organized military resistance, even ordinary Norwegians, young and old, find endless ways of resisting. Those people know that every part they play in the underground, no matter how small it might seem, can be significant.
Fourteen-year-old Espen is one of them. Shadow on the Mountain tells his adventures during World War II in Norway. Espen, his family and his friends are swept up in the resistance movement, but some of his former friends seem to be on the wrong side. Can he still trust them or does he have to fear them? Espen starts his career in the resistance with small jobs, at first he only delivers illegal newspapers. During the following years of war he is sent on more and more dangerous missions as a courier or even as a spy. With these strictly forbidden activities he risks his own life and those of his loved ones, his family and friends. Although he sometimes wonders if he is on the right path and what is the right thing to do, at some point he cannot stop the events anymore or return to a normal childhood.
Except the major historical figures, all characters in this story are fictional. However, many of Espen’s and the other character’s experiences are based on real events and the experiences of real people. Although the book covers about five years within only about 300 pages I didn’t feel like I lost too much information about the main or side characters in this time. You can perfectly see the development of all those persons. I don’t think that the reasons that led to the respective actions or decisions would have contributed very much to the story.
What I really liked was the mix of every day life with games, fun, first love, the effects of war and German occupation and the fight in the resistance or against the resistance on the one hand and the changing point of view between Espen, his sister and other young persons in their village on the other hand. This stylistic device offers the perfect range of information that the reader can easily find himself part of the scene.
The story provides a lot of adventure and suspense without being too brutal or gory. I was a bit (positively) surprised and impressed that the author didn’t make a perfect good versus evil story out of this novel about war and resistance. Although on completely different sides of the war, all persons fight for their nation – the same nation! Some of them are not really well liked but others seem to have plausible reasons for their decisions. Espen’s sister even sometimes feels sorry for the young German soldiers who have to live far from their families. This is an aspect that I wouldn’t have expected in a children’s/YA book about resistance but which is absolutely comprehensible.
Shadow on the Mountain is an informative and thought-provoking, yet action packed and suspenseful novel about war and resistance in Norway in World War II. I would recommend this book not only to young readers but also to adults : 5/5 stars.
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"April 9, 1940:
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