GODDESS of YANTAI, Review by Brenda Repland
Forensic accountant Ava Lee attends the premiere of her lover Pan Fai’s latest film,
“Mao’s Daughter” in Beijing. After the screening, Fai opens up to Ava about her situation. She is being blackmailed by senior officials of the China Movie Syndicate. They seek certain “favors” in order to continue supporting Fai’s career and films. When she resists, the threats turn violent.
The tawdry world of Chinese film making is new to Ava but she is determined to help Fai extricate herself from the threats. Not only will she have to deal with the Syndicate but also grasp the restraints imposed on the film industry by the Communist Chinese government as well.
A WOMAN of NO IMPORTANCE Review by Brenda Repland
Through her extensive research, author Sonia Purnell has uncovered – for the first time – the untold story of Virginia Hall, a Baltimore socialite who, through sheer determination, talked her way into Special Operations Executive, the British spy organization responsible for countless acts of warfare during WWII.
Her mother had other plans for her daughter, but Virginia was not to be deterred. She became the first Allied woman deployed behind enemy lines. She would not let “Cuthbert,” her prosthetic leg, slow her down in any way.
She established vast spy networks throughout France, arranged for clandestine air drops of all manner of supplies (egs. food, money, explosives +++) and coordinated training and execution of guerilla tactics to rattle and deter the Nazis.
She first did this in Lyon where the infamous Klaus Barbie (“The Butcher of Lyon”) was headquartered.
In 1942, the Gestapo sent out an urgent transmission: “She is the most dangerous of all Allied spies. We must find and destroy her.”
When her cover was blown, she escaped over the Pyrenees into Spain. But not for long. She was insistent about returning to France where she was ultimately credited with liberating great swathes of the country from the Nazis after D-Day.
She accomplished all this in spite of unrelenting prejudice against women in the field. Time and again she was asked to report to younger and inexperienced men who resented taking orders from a woman. When she made suggestions for further useful assignments, they were received by her superiors as “fine ideas” and assigned to male officers to carry out.
When the war was over and she evolved into the CIA, this pattern continued. It was noted that at the CIA, “women with husbands (which Virginia now had) were thought to be less reliable.”
The CIA later admitted that “fellow officers felt she had been sidelined . . .because she had so much experience that overshadowed her male colleagues.”
(Today, Virginia is officially recognized by the CIA as an unqualified heroine of the war, whose career at the agency was held back by frustrations with superiors who did not use her talents well.)
In 2006, France and Britain celebrated Virginia’s life in a ceremony at the French ambassador’s residence in Washington, DC. The ambassador read a letter of homage from then-President Jacques Chirac, honoring her as an “American friend” of France. It was the first time the country had publicly acknowledged her as a “true hero of the French Resistance.”
THE STATIONERY SHOP Review by Brenda Repland
This poignant novel takes place initially during the political trauma of Tehran, Iran in 1953, as the country is torn by competing politics over who will be their leader. Can the Shah survive a rumored plot to overthrow him in a coup?
Into this turmoil, two young people find solace in the peaceful atmosphere of Mr. Fakhri’s neighborhood stationery shop. Roya is naïve about the political situation but Bahman is driven by his zeal of justice.
As the revolution heats up and romance blooms, Roya comes to understand Mr. Fakhri’s not-so-innocent role in clandestine communication.
On the eve of their marriage, Roya and Bahman are to meet in the town square but violence -- resulting from the coup d’état – changes both the country’s future and that of the young couple.
Sixty years later, in what can only be fate, Roya and Bahman meet again, this time in America. The unanswered questions which had separated them, can now be answered.
Ms. Kamali captures the very essence of a country out of control when revolution strikes. We see how trauma can, in effect, make way for deep resonances.