#129 ~ War on the Margins

Cover of War on the Margins

War on the Margins by Libby Cone

When France fell to the Nazis during WWII, the Channel Islands fell as well, despite the fact that they were a part of the British Commonwealth.  Jersey, the Southern-most of the three islands, is the setting of Libby Cone’s novel about the way in which the Channel islands and its citizens were impacted by Nazi occupation.  Here, we meet Marlene Zimmer, an anxious single, orphaned woman in her mid to late 20s working for the Jersey Aliens Office.  This is where Jersey citizens were requested and then forced to register as Jews when they met the ever broadening requirements.  Although she considers herself a Christian and a British citizen, her father was Jewish.  When the office is finally instructed to classify Jews as foreigners, Marlene’s nerves can no longer take the stress.  She leaves her work, her flat, and her identity behind to hide on the island in hopes of somehow surviving the remainder of the war.  What she finds is work on the Resistance and a place to belong with Lucille and Suzanne, partners in life, art, and politics.

There are several stories told in this novel: Marlene’s reaction to Nazi occupation and her Jewish heritage, Lucy and Suzanne’s early life and current work resisting the occupation, and Peter’s journey as a Jew imprisoned and shipped to the Channel Islands for slave labor.  Marlene is the main character and her life flows through those of Lucy, Suzanne, and Peter.  I was most interested in Lucy and Suzanne’s story.  They were fascinating women and I enjoyed reading about their work for the Resistance.  As much as I liked Marlene, I would have loved to have read a novel entirely about them.

Intermixed within each character’s stories, there were chapters containing official communications between the Nazis to the Aliens Office and the registered Jews on Jersey requesting information about their status and their future. While Marlene worked for the Aliens Office, it made sense to me that they were there – as if Marlene was reading them and discovering what was happening.  After that, If felt that they got in my way. This is partially due to the fact that the novel’s layout is structured with double spaces between lines which made these sections especially hard to read.  After I found that I could follow the political changes easily through the context of the story, I began skimming and then skipping them altogether.

War on the Margins brought a perspective of the Resistance Movement during WWII that was unique and interesting.  I found the strength and creativity of Lucy and Suzanne refreshing and engaging.  This novel has encouraged me to look more into underground efforts against the Nazis in occupied territories.  Although the formatting of the text was unusual, I quickly got used to it with the exception of the communication chapters.  The novel read quickly and kept me interested throughout.  It would suggest this book to anyone interested in WWII, living under Nazi occupation, and the Resistance.

To buy this novel, click here.


  • At 2008.12.10 11:19, Darlene said:

    This does sound interesting. As you know this material always fascinates me although I’d likely pass over the communication chapters also. Great review Jennifer.
    Thanks, Darlene! I don’t think that WWII will ever loose its bite or its fascination.

    • At 2008.12.10 12:17, Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit) said:

      wow and you read this one now, instead of for the challenge in January? My goodness.

      Sounds like something I may have to consider.
      The author sent me this book several months ago now and I wanted to read it before the end of the year. If you would be interested in it for the challenge, send me an email and I’ll send it your way. I would be really interested in what you think of it.

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      • At 2008.12.10 16:21, bermudaonion said:

        This sounds good. When we lived in France and would see a plaque to the resistance, it always made me tear up.
        Sometime when you have more time in VA, we should meet and go to the D-Day Memorial in Bedford. If you had that reaction in France, you would be awed by what they’ve built there. Bedford lost more men on D-Day than anywhere else. It’s an incredible memorial and only 20ish minutes from my home.

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        • At 2008.12.10 16:50, Dave said:

          A book like this, combined with The Diary of Anne Frank, should provide a great look at the many people who tried to undercut the Nazis. I haven’t read this one, but have read Anne Frank and last year got to visit the Amsterdam building where she and her family hid. It was chilling, to say the least.
          Dave, can you believe that I’ve never read The Diary of Anne Frank before? I don’t know how that is, but I’m going to rectify it next year. Check out my sidebar for the link to the War Through the Generations reading challenge I’ve joined.

          • At 2008.12.10 18:28, Jeanette said:

            Sounds really good. I am very interested in those topics. I am reading a book right now about French Resistance workers.
            Jeanette, what book is it? I’ll be looking forward to your review!

            • At 2008.12.10 19:56, Matthew said:

              Great review. I have a feeling that this book would be a nice companion to The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. Also Guernsey has piqued my interest in the channel islands. I would certainly check this one out.
              I was worried that if I read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas that I would be torn to pieces. Your review really makes me want to dive in anyway. I have Guernsey on audiobook and that will definitely be on my list for next year. By reading this book I figured out what Guernsey was.

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              • At 2008.12.11 18:10, Shana @ Literarily said:

                I was going to comment that this one would be a good choice for the challenge but Serena beat me to it!!! I’ve never heard of this one, Jennifer, but it sounds like something I would really like. It’s definitely going on my wish list!

                • At 2008.12.12 11:29, Bookwormom said:

                  I’m adding this title to my library list, it sounds fabulous. I’m currently reading The Guernsey literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, which is an epistolary novel that details a fictionalized account of the occupation of Guernsey during WW II. The title may be odd, but it is a fabulous read.

                  • At 2008.12.14 14:14, veens said:

                    I am doing the WWII challenge 🙂 and if I can get my hands on this one.. I sure will get it for me 🙂 Lemme first search.

                    It is an awesome review 🙂

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                    • At 2009.01.14 12:15, diaryofaneccentric said:

                      Great review! I’d like to check this one out, too. Would it be okay to post a link to this review on the War Through the Generations book reviews page?

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                      • At 2009.01.14 12:19, Serena (Savvy Verse & Wit) said:

                        I am so sorry…i just replied to your kind offer…I totally have been a dunce these days with comments and emails and the sickness in my head.

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                        • […] on World War II on the Channel Islands and how the people found ways to resist the Nazi occupation. Here is a link to my review.  I read this novel before I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie […]

                          • […] haven’t had a chance to read it yet, Jennifer over at Literate Housewife did in December and recommends it.  Cone recently found a publisher for her book and this lovely hardcover is being released […]

                            • […] Here are some other reviews of the book: Dovegreyreader Rob Around Books Letters from a Hill Farm Random Distractions Literary License Bookgeeks Rainbow Reviews 60 going on 16 The Literary Housewife Review […]

                              • […] what the occupation meant to the islands and their inhabitants. Reviews can be found at Shelf Love, The Literate Housewife, and Dove Grey Scribbles who has a more in depth discussion on literature that covers the Channel […]

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