Bobbie Ann Mason’s novel, The Girl in the Blue Beret (now in paperback), is one of those memorable books that not only tells a compelling story, but also is full of historical facts that stick with you long after you finish the last chapter. This mix of truth and fiction lends itself to hours of book club conversation, and has led many people to research their own family histories further. In this letter to readers, Bobbie Ann shares some of the moving responses she’s gotten from readers of The Girl in the Blue Beret.
I have heard from many readers since The Girl in the Blue Beret came out. The story of my airline pilot, former B-17 bomber pilot Marshall Stone, on his search to find the people who helped him during World War II has struck a chord. Readers have told me about their uncles and fathers and grandfathers who were in the war but never said much about it. I sense an urgent desire to know more about the World War II era.
A friend of a friend gave Blue Beret to a woman whose husband had died recently. The husband, Bob, was very much like Marshall: retired pilot, WWII aviator, taciturn. She said, “Reading it was like having Bob back again.”
A sampling of some of the letters from readers:
• “This is such a touching and powerful novel. I’m sorry so much of W.W. II history is being lost. It is amazing to learn the details of the courage of the French people who risked or gave their lives to rescue the aviators. I was a little girl during the war, and we were never told much of this after the war was over.”
• “Our mother was a 15 year old Parisian girl in June of 1940 and our father an American soldier 1943-1946 who met and have their own love story from WWII. Your book has truly been a treasure helping to look into the lives, sights and events that surrounded our parents during their youth. Our mother died in Feb 2011 and reading your book has brought many jewels to me in the strengths that I saw in my Mom and tried to understand as she put a very difficult time in her life behind her, yet…share her history.”
• “My father served in France in the army and as I have grown older (58 now) I have more curiosity about it. He passed away years ago so I cannot ask him. Your book set up such a scene in my mind. Even though some parts were very hard to read, I think it is good to know what happened.”
• “I felt I was there with the characters. I was not in the Air Force in WWII, but an officer with the army engineers along the Burma Road in China.”
• “I’ve just finished The Girl in tears. I got lost in the book, because you put me there with Marshall and Annette. We are discussing your treasure at my men’s book club tomorrow, and I want to thank you for the literary gem you provided. My father-in-law will be 90 this June, a veteran of WW II in Canadian Army Reconnaissance. I thought of him often during the reading of your enthralling work.”
I am so touched by all these responses, which tell of the urgency people feel about remembering World War II. While writing this novel, I traveled to Europe, where I looked up some members of the Resistance who had helped my father-in-law escape from Occupied France. Their memories were very much alive and they wanted their stories to be told. They trusted me to tell in fiction the emotional truth of their sacrifices. It was a challenge, and no book I’ve written has involved me so deeply. In France I became friends with a lovely woman named Michele, who was the original girl in the blue beret, the girl I call Annette. Her story is the inspiration at the heart of this novel.
I hope that you will enjoy my story of Marshall and Annette and find much to discuss in your book club. I can be in touch via e-mail or Skype!
Visit Bobbie Ann’s website to share your own story about The Girl in the Blue Beret and learn more about Bobbie Ann and her books.
Author Photo © LaNelle Mason.