PUBLISHED TO COINCIDE WITH 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF VE DAY
|No Exit Press|
7 May 2020
My thanks to the publishers for my copy of this book
and to Random Things Tours for the invitation to be part of the blog tour
Based on the Katyn massacre of 1940, When We Fall is a moving historical novel of three lives forever altered by one fatal choice.
All of the victims of the Katyn massacre were men, except, remarkably, for one woman. And when I discovered that this woman, Janina Lewandowska, was a pilot, I knew that the Polish experience would become the heart of my novel… The story I tell is fiction, but it is one that I could not have begun to imagine without the remarkable life and death of Janina Lewandowska.
© Carolyn Kirby
April - May 2020 marks 80 years since the Katyn massacre and 10th April 2020 also marks the 10th anniversary of the airline crash that killed top Polish dignitaries on their way to Russia to commemorate the atrocity.
England, 1943. Lost in fog, Air Transport Auxiliary pilot Vee Katchatourian is forced to make an emergency landing where she meets enigmatic RAF airman Stefan Bergel, and then can’t get him out of her mind. In occupied Poland, Ewa Hartman hosts German officers in her father’s guest house, while secretly gathering intelligence for the Polish resistance. Mourning her lover, Stefan, who was captured by the Soviets at the start of the war, Ewa is shocked to see him on the street one day. Haunted by a terrible choice he made in captivity, Stefan asks Vee and Ewa to help him expose one of the darkest secrets of the war. But it is not clear where everyone’s loyalties lie until they are tested.
Published to coincide with the 75th anniversary of VE Day and based on WWII war atrocity the Katyn massacre, When We Fall is a moving story of three lives forever altered by one fatal choice.
What did I think about it..
When We Fall is set during the tumultuous latter years of WW2 and in it we are introduced to two very different young women, each forced to play a wartime role they didn’t expect, and both of them caught up with Stefan Bergel, an enigmatic young pilot who carries with him an air of mystery.
Vee Katchatourian is a female pilot enlisted with the ATS and given the exciting and rather dangerous task of transporting fighter aeroplanes around to RAF bases in the UK. In occupied Poland, Ewa Hartman helps her father to run the family guesthouse in Poznan,where they are forced to give hospitality to German officers who are billeted in the town. Ordinarily the lives of these two brave young women should never have intertwined, but their very different relationships with Stefan Bergel will see both them facing grave danger.
Focused on the effect of living in a time when neither safety, nor shelter, was easily found, an uneasy atmosphere of mistrust pervades and I was quickly drawn into a story which is both poignant and dangerous in equal measure. Not only is wartime Poland brought to vivid life but there is also a specific thread to the story which refers to the Katyn Massacre, an event which happened in 1945, where Polish military officers were captured and killed by Soviet secret forces which is an atrocity I am ashamed to say I knew absolutely nothing about. All credit to the author for bringing this tragedy into focus on its 75th anniversary.
When We Fall is beautifully written, crisp and sharp with no emotion wasted and no expression left unobserved. Time and place slot together perfectly, from the stultified boredom of inactivity as Vee longs to fly, but doesn’t always get her pick of the choicest aircraft, to the creeping sense of disquiet as Ewa’s clandestine involvement with the local resistance places her in constant danger of discovery.
At times unutterably sad and at others, nail bitingly dangerous, When We Fall brings to poignant life such a tragic time in world history.
CAROLYN KIRBY is the author of The Conviction of Cora Burns which was longlisted for the Historical Writers’ Association Debut Crown Award. Before being a full-time writer, Carolyn worked in social housing and as a teacher. She has two grown-up daughters and lives with her husband in Oxfordshire.
Twitter @novelcarolyn #WhenWeFall