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"Girl in Blue Beret' is storytelling at its best

"Girl in Blue Beret' is storytelling at its best

"The Girl in the Blue Beret" (Random House), by Bobbie Ann Mason

July 1st, 2011 by KIM CURTIS, For The Associated Press in News

The new novel from best-selling author Bobbie Ann Mason will send you dashing to the shelves to devour everything else she's ever written - it's that good.

Inspired by the experiences of her father-in-law, Mason weaves a spellbinding tale of war, love and survival in "The Girl in the Blue Beret" that alternates seamlessly between World War II and modern Europe.

Marshall Stone is a 60-year-old former bomber pilot whose age forces him to retire from his beloved airline job. To the surprise of his friends and family, he picks up and moves to Paris, intent on finding the ordinary people who hid him and led him safely out of France during the war after his B-17 crashed. Through his eyes, we meet members of the French Resistance who sacrificed greatly and often risked their lives to help downed airmen. We also learn about a cocksure young man slow to realize the high price of war to those who lived through it.

Mason's writing is exquisite. Not a single word is wasted or out of place, and she never drifts toward sentimentality - even in her descriptions of combat and the wreckage left behind. Her extensive knowledge of aircraft, combat and World War II is readily apparent, but isn't heavy-handed. Perhaps most impressive, though, is her ability to experience the world through a no-longer-middle-aged widower.

"The Girl in the Blue Beret" is not only a remarkable work of historical fiction, it's also storytelling at its best.