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Violins of Autumn

Violins of Autumn

4.5 10
by Amy McAuley

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When the Germans begin bombing London in World War II, Betty is determined to do her part. Instead of running air raid drills like most girls her age, she lies about her age and trains to become a spy. Now known by her secret agent persona, Adele Blanchard, she finds herself parachuting over German-occupied France under the cover of darkness to join the secret


When the Germans begin bombing London in World War II, Betty is determined to do her part. Instead of running air raid drills like most girls her age, she lies about her age and trains to become a spy. Now known by her secret agent persona, Adele Blanchard, she finds herself parachuting over German-occupied France under the cover of darkness to join the secret Resistance movement. Prepared to die for her cause, Adele wasn't expecting to make a new best friend in her fellow agent or fall for a handsome American pilot. With the brutality of war ever present, can Adele dare to dream of a future where the world is at peace and she is free to live and love of her own accord?

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In May 1944, 17-year-old Betty, a trained spy, is about to parachute into occupied France to help the Resistance. Under the new identity of Adele, a French girl, Betty works as a courier, delivering messages while trying to stay under the Gestapo’s radar. “hat could be more thrilling than scooting around the countryside on a bicycle, carrying top-secret messages... right under the noses of oblivious Germans?” From the prologue readers know that, at some point, Betty gets captured, which adds to the tension each time she begins a new assignment. McAuley (Over and Over You) has clearly done her research; historical facts are smoothly woven into the narrative, and the details of Betty’s assignments, such as spying on a factory or passing along codes, feel real. Less believable are characters like Robbie, a downed American pilot, or Pierre, a Frenchman fighting for his country, both of whom fall for Betty in a way that feels more manufactured than organic. Still, Betty is a daring and relatable heroine, and the challenges she faces will keep readers engaged. Ages 12–up. Agent: Steven Chudney, the Chudney Agency. (June)
VOYA - Brighid White
This reviewer was interested in this story because I study French and have a sincere interest in traveling and studying overseas. The spy angle and the love story make the novel exciting, as does the touch of mystery. It is hard to imagine someone so young risking her life like that. Without having studied the world wars yet, it is difficult to understand the context of this tale. This book would be best for an older high school student who has studied about the wars and may understand it better. Reviewer: Brighid White, Teen Reviewer
VOYA - Kim Carter
Determined to make a contribution toward ending World War II, sixteen-year-old Betty Sweeney lied about her age; signed up with the Special Operations Executive, a guerilla warfare organization; and became Adele Blanchard, secret agent. During paramilitary training in Scotland, Adele met Denise Langford, a radio operator. Now seventeen, Adele joins Denise and two male agents, parachuting behind enemy lines to the countryside of German-occupied France. They are met by members of the French resistance, and given provisions to make their way to Paris, where their jobs are to provide communications in anticipation of the Allied invasion. Between her courier missions in Paris, Adele takes a handsome, downed, American pilot under her wing and scouts a countryside factory where the Germans are manufacturing munitions, all while navigating the complexities of discerning who can be trusted and who cannot when friends turn out to be enemies and enemies are friendly. Following a stilted beginning, the first-person narrative offers an engrossing insider's perspective, blending the demands of wartime with the developmental needs of late adolescence. Who to trust, who to respect, who to emulate, and who to fall in love with are all part of Betty/Adele's coming of age in the deftly sketched context of the German occupation. Worthy of consideration for school reading lists, Violins Of Autumn (the radio code phrase that indicates the Allied invasion is nigh) is a memorable, vicarious experience of a notable chapter in twentieth-century history and will appeal to WWII and spy fiction buffs alike. Reviewer: Kim Carter
School Library Journal
Gr 8 Up—American teen Betty Sweeney has lied about her age, been trained by the British SOE espionage agency, and parachuted into Nazi-occupied France to act as a courier for the Resistance. Sound unbelievable? It is. "Adele" (Betty's undercover name) and her British counterpart, "Denise," a radio operator and sharp shooter, make their way to a nearby farmhouse that doubles as a safe house for Resistance fighters. Almost immediately they encounter a downed American fighter pilot—also a teenager—and the three head toward Paris. Separated along the way, Adele outwits Nazi soldiers and is befriended by an elderly French doctor. Both the young farmer from the safe house and the American pilot become love interests. She and Denise vacillate between giddy schoolgirl feelings about boys, fashion, and champagne, and the cold-blooded determination required to shoot an enemy point blank. This juxtaposition makes for a confusing and head-shaking read. After completing a highly dangerous mission, Adele and Pierre share a passionate kiss and embrace before they have even reached safety. And within hours of a near-death weeks-long torture session, the rescued Adele is visited by Denise and, noticing her visitor, says, "Is that a new skirt?" Both characters are by turns naive and inexperienced and elite-level assassins, a stretch that many readers may not be able to swallow. The little bit of history provided does not give readers any real sense of the French Resistance experience, largely because the protagonists are more caricature than characters. For a moving read about France during World War II, suggest Tatiana de Rosnay's Sarah's Key (St. Martin's Pr., 2007) or Carla Jablonski's graphic novel Resistance: Book 1 (Roaring Brook, 2010).—Karen Elliott, Grafton High School, WI
Kirkus Reviews
An American teenager becomes an Allied spy for the French Resistance during World War II in this briskly paced historical to novel. Seventeen-year-old Betty Sweeney, aka Adele Blanchard, is thrilled to abandon the staid safety of her European boarding school after she is approached by dashing SOE (Special Operations Executive) agents looking for unassuming young women to serve as spies behind enemy lines in France. "All I have to do is drop into a foreign country, aid and train members of the ever-growing Resistance movement, sabotage railways, travel the country on a bicycle while concealing top-secret information, blow things up, and try not to get killed." At the end of every cliffhanging chapter, intrepid Adele finds herself in a different do-or-die situation, whether it's unobtrusively trying to carry her bicycle through rough water under an enemy-occupied bridge or leading a German soldier to certain death in the labyrinthine Paris sewers. She is also caught in a love triangle between French farmer-turned-fighter Pierre and downed American pilot Robbie, one of whom is not destined to live to see the end of the war. The fast pace, well-realized setting and fascinating espionage details help make up for the stereotypical characterizations and stiff dialogue. Readers who prefer layered characters over racing plot should seek out the more subtle works of Judy Blundell or Kathryn Miller Haines. (Historical fiction. 12 & up)

Product Details

Walker & Company
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.20(d)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

Meet the Author

AMY McAULEY is the author of Over and Over You. She likes to read, bake, cycle, camp, garden, and watch movies. She lives in London, Ontario, with her family and two cats.

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Violins of Autumn 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a amazing novel. Violins of Autumn gives you a great look into a womens place in the spy part of WW2.
Renya More than 1 year ago
In German occupied France, during 1944, American Betty Sweeney and her comrades are faced with the mission of relaying messages for the Allies in preparation for D-Day, the liberation of France. Under the code name of Adele, Betty parachutes into the countryside of France and begins her work while evading the wrath of the Nazis and undertaking some unexpected duties. While paving the way for the Allies, she discovers friendship, romance, and loyalty.
JKathleen More than 1 year ago
This was a fun read, and I imagined a movie coming as I read.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Books-Beside-My-Bed More than 1 year ago
I highly enjoyed this historical fiction set in WW II.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book needs a sequel
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Having lived through WWII, I can only call this a juvenile interpretation of it. I had the impression this was written by a young, immature person who had read about WWII, but did little in-depth research. It had the basis for a great book, but was trite and lacked substance in its delivery. So, yes, it was a story set in the time of WWII, but by no means will you gain a true perspective of what people actually endured at that time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago