Has there been a film version?
Yes, a film made in 1943.
Who are the important characters?
Colonel Lanser – head of the battalion of invaders
Mayor Orden – the mayor of the invaded town
Lieutenant Tonder – one of the invading soldiers
Captain Loft – an invading soldier
Doctor Winter – a close friend of the Mayor’s
Molly Morden – a young woman of the town
Lieutenant Prackle – one of the invading soldiers
Major Hunter – invading soldier
Corell – the spy who primed the town to be invaded
Annie – the Mayor’s cook
Captain Bentick – one of the invading soldiers
What’s it about?
A small coal town is invaded by soldiers. No country’s names are mentioned but it’s fairly obvious that the invaders are German forces during WWII. The story is told from both sides of the conflict – the villagers as they struggle to resist and the soldiers as they try to do their duty while remaining good men in the eyes of the people they have conquered and practically enslaved.
Do I recommend you read this book?
Yes, it’s a good Steinbeck short read.
How did this book make my list?
I enjoy Steinbeck’s works and I had never heard of this one.
Has it won any awards?
Steinbeck won a prize from Norway for contributing to the Resistance Movement there with this novel.
“In the dark, clear night a white, half-withered moon brought little light. The wind was dry and singing over the snow, a quiet wind that blew steadily, evenly from the cold point of the Pole.” – p 87
This novel was considered Allied Propaganda during WWII and in Axis countries it was treason to have it in your possession.
This short novelette is a wonderful glance into some of the lesser viewed horrors of war. In the novel, men on both sides sacrifice their honor, their sanity, and their lives for causes they believe to be just and good. I appreciate that Steinbeck shows men from both sides of the conflict, it makes it less of a propaganda novel for me – but still propaganda. Not an enjoyable book to read, it’s very painful as you watch the slow destruction of the village and its occupants. But it’s still one worth adding to your repertoire.