Night of Flames by Douglas W. Jacobson
Published October 2008 by McBooks Press
Thanks to Dorothy, at Pump Up Your Book Promotions, for providing this book to me for review.
This book opens on the first night of the German invasion of Poland on most closely follows the lives of Anna, a university professor, and Jan, her husband and a major in the Polish cavalry through World War II. Jacobson introduces the reader to a vast cast of characters including Anna's father, her friend, Irene, and Irene's son, Justyn.
From the opening pages, Anna is running for her life after the building she is sleeping in is bombed in the opening throes of the invasion. Then when her father is sent to a death camp, Anna fears that his possible ties to the resistance will put her in danger so she, Irene and Justyn make their way out of Poland and into Belgian. There Anna becomes involved in the resistance movement.
Jan spends the first days of the invasion, on the other hand, waiting for something to happen, as the Polish army sits waiting for instructions. Soon enough, he is seeing more than enough action. Eventually he ends up with the British forces, making forays back into Poland. Through all of the war, Jan and Anna have no idea what has happened to each other.
More plot driven that character driven, Jacobson still is able to get the reader to care what happens to his characters, although they are not fully fleshed out. To be fair, we only see the characters in the context of the war and it would have been difficult to add more depth, given the number of characters and the scope of the novel.
"Night of Flames" is Jacobson's first novel. It is well-researched and his passion for the subject it evident. Throughout, Jacobson shifts chapters between Anna and Jan, a device which I general like in a book with tension and this book is no exception. Jacobson does a wonderful job of showing the stress of war and, without being too graphic, the horrors of war. From the opening pages, when Warsaw is first bombed, this book does not let the reader go. This book was a real learning experience for me but I would also recommend it to any one who is interested in World War II.
To read an interview with Mr. Jacobson, visit Beyond The Books, where he reveals that this book was rejected 30 to 40 times before it was finally accepted by McBooks Press but that he feels that this is a great publisher for the book because they specialize in action-oriented historical fiction.