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July 1, 2022

All the Lights Above Us by M. B. Henry ~ a Review

by Donna Huber

I'm a big reader of WWII fiction and I love finding unique perspectives on the era. All the Lights Above had a great premise. I've read other stories that include D-Day but it is usually from the perspective of military people - either the allies landing at Normandy or the French Resistance in France eagerly awaiting the invasion. This book told the story from the perspective of 5 women in different places and roles.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of WWII novel All the Lights Above Us by M. B. Henry
May 2022; Alcove Press; 978-1643859620
audio, ebook, print (352 pages); WWII fiction

I've read multiple books that are told by alternating characters, but I'm not sure I've ever read one with points of view from 5 characters, particularly as each is given about equal amounts of attention.

  • Mildred Gillars is an unsuccessful American actress living in Germany and gets a job on the national radio. Though she doesn't agree with everything the Nazi party is doing, as she says it is hard to argue with clean streets and plenty of food to eat. Mildred was a real person. You may better know her as Axis Sally - the famed announcer of Nazi Propaganda.
  • Theda is a volunteer nurse at a portside hospital in England. She hopes to get on a combat nurses team, but all her skills and stamina are put to the test as the hospital is overrun with D-Day casualties. 
  • Flora is a courier for the French Resistance whose parents (who also worked with the Resistance) have gone missing. She has moxie and a determination to find out what happened to her parents.
  • Emilia, who lives in the same French town as Flora, has chosen the other side in an effort to survive. She has worked her way up the ranks of the Gestapo.
  • Adelaide is a French woman who has been forced to house German soldiers. When the invasion starts her only thought is to get to her daughter and granddaughter who live on the coast.
With so many main characters it was difficult to connect with anyone of them. I struggled to remember their backstory as there would be too many chapters between each character's POV.  Mildred interested me the most because she is a real person and I did some Googling to learn more about her. Theda was probably the most sympathetic character. The other 3 just kind of got lost for me.

I did like the different perspectives on the most infamous day of WWII. However, the execution of the story hindered my enjoyment. I think 5 POVs were just too many to keep straight. Flora and Emilia are the only characters to overlap so it was really like keeping 5 separate stories straight. While I might read multiple books at a time, my limit is 3 (I've recently had 4 books on the go at the same time and I found myself having trouble keeping them all straight).

Perhaps if you have large chunks of time to devote to reading this book, you wouldn't have the same problems with remembering the characters' backstories. This is my only real complaint. I think each character's story if taken on its own, was well-written and interesting. I loved that the story focused on the women and how D-Day affected them. 

Donna Huber is an avid reader and natural encourager. She is the founder of Girl Who Reads and the author of how-to marketing book Secrets to a Successful Blog Tour.

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