The Swiss Courier – A Review

One of my little known secrets is that I was a history minor in college. I fell in love with studying European history my junior year and would have changed my major from English except for a two-year foreign language requirement I couldn’t fulfill and still graduate with my class.

Now that you know that little tidbit, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I enjoy historical novels. Some of my favorite books fit into that category—Gone with the Wind, The Scarlet Pimpernel, The Count of Monte Cristo, Exodus.

Hence, when I had a chance to read The Swiss Courier by Tricia Goyer and Mike Yorkey, I was happy to take a holiday from the norm and plunge into a World War II novel set in a location I knew little of—neutral Switzerland.

The Story. Germany is involved in research of a powerful weapon, one they believe will insure victory over the Allies. When a group of German officers attempts to assassinate Hitler, however, the secret police work overtime to ferret out traitors from within the ranks. One diligent Gestapo officer discovers that a scientist working on the ultimate weapon is a Jew—hence, in the twisted Nazi thinking, an enemy of the state.

As the Gestapo plans to take this scientist into custody, the freedom fighters within Germany work with the American Office of Strategic Affairs plan to smuggle him into the hands of the Allies. The success or failure of the plan lies on the shoulders of a young Swiss courier named Gabi.

Strengths. This was a delightful story because it had believable, interesting characters and a plot filled with intrigue. There was some necessary violence (it does take place in wartime!), but it was of the mildest sort.

I especially liked seeing the war from the viewpoint of a neutral country (though there were precious few of those, hence the name “World War”), especially one so close to Germany that the threat of invasion hung over the Swiss year after year.

The theme of the book was woven through the story naturally.

Weaknesses. In some places, I thought the historical data was too much—types and descriptions of weapons, airplanes, even some places seemed more detailed than necessary, and consequently a little distracting from the story. Also there was a plot point I’m sure was meant to be a surprise but in fact it was predictable, though I haven’t figured out why.

Recently agent Rachelle Gardner did a blog post on Foreshadowing vs Telegraphing. I’m not sure what elements tip a reader off rather than give a proper hint. Maybe there are no particular guidelines—one reader may be surprised and another saw the event coming from the first chapter. It may depend completely on the experience of the reader. Well, not completely. At any rate, I saw the twist coming. I was pleased with it—glad, even, that I was right, so it didn’t spoil the story, but neither did it surprise.

Recommendation. If you enjoy historical fiction, especially that set in the World War II era, I recommend you read this book. It will give you hours of reading pleasure.

Published in: on November 4, 2009 at 6:25 pm  Comments Off on The Swiss Courier – A Review  
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My Friend Amy’s Faith in Fiction Saturday – Escapism

I need to explain. On Saturday I went to my friend Julie Carobini‘s book signing (latest release is Sweet Water – and you can read my review here) held at a bookstore in my corner of SoCal.

Yes, I’m fully aware the title to this post says “My Friend Amy” not “Julie.” 😉 (There is method in my madness!)

As it turned out, Amy, author of the blog My Friend Amy, was also at the book signing (which I discovered, was also for Mike Yorkey, co-author with Tricia Goyer of the historical novel The Swiss Courier).

So today I stopped by My Friend Amy’s and discovered that she has instituted Faith in Fiction Saturday’s in which she will introduce a topic or ask a question, then those who wish can blog on the same. Cool idea! 😎 And as it happens, I want to blog about the latest topic:

Which brings me to today’s question…is Christian fiction too often characterized by escapism? And if it you think it’s truly healthy for Christians to constantly take in messages of faith that are light or too easily resolved? Is it okay to have a less than happy ending in a Christian fiction book?

Let me start with the last (since the last shall be first 😛 ). I definitely think it is okay to have a less than happy ending in a Christian novel. First, such an ending seems desirable according to Hooked, the Writer’s Digest instruction book I’m currently reading. The most satisfying ending according to this author, Les Edgerton, is a win-lose ending. I suspect this is because it mirrors real life, and certainly the Christian worldview of life.

Our experience on earth is hard and then we die, but the loss leads to great gain—eternity with our loving God and Father. It’s the idea of grieving with hope.

Which leads to the other parts of the question. Is it truly healthy for Christians to constantly take in messages of faith that are light or too easily resolved? I don’t think it’s healthy at all. Once in a while, sure. There are some days that seem to require a light-hearted approach, whether from laughter or “it all comes right in the end” stories. But just like an exclusive diet of chocolate, as yummy as it is, does not make for a healthy body, exclusively reading fiction that sugar-coats reality instead of revealing it isn’t healthy for the soul, in my opinion.

A sugar-coated ending to the “story” of Jesus’s life would have had Him calling on those legions of angels at His command and crucifying Pilate and the Pharisees on the cross meant for Him. Instead, He humbled Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross. Nothing sweet about the end of His earthly life. And how glad I am that He was willing to make the sacrifice He did. Because He walked the lose-win storyline, I can too.

I think, because we Christian authors know joy awaits, and we wish to encourage through our stories, we may give the false message that everything ends well. What we need to be showing is that even when everything doesn’t end well, the believer has reason to hope.

Now to the first question: is Christian fiction too often characterized by escapism? Some is, and the temptation is for all of us Christian authors to unintentionally write an escapist story.

I tend to think, though, that the stories that dig deep, and explore truths that aren’t easy or obvious, won’t feel like escapism even if they have a happy-happy ending. The characters will be changed by their experiences, not untouched by them, and that doesn’t feel like escapist literature. The escape kind has the characters acting as if death and wounds and fear vanish after a good night’s sleep. 🙄

So what are your thoughts about escapist literature?

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