Monday, January 14, 2013
Book review: Becoming Clementine by Jennifer Niven
A follow up to her bestseller Velva Jean Learns to Fly, Becoming Clementine continues the exploits of Velva Jean Hart during World War II. Velva Jean Hart, originally from Appalachia and now a member of the Women's Air Service Pilots (WASP), moves from a WASP to a no-nonsense Allied spy in occupied France. In the process she changed her identity to Clementine Roux, but at the same time she continues to draw from her roots growing up in the tough mountains of Appalachia to survive as an enemy agent in occupied France.
Velva Jean, a co-pilot on a flight to drop off agents in occupied France, finds herself literally stuck in occupied France after her plane crashed and all but a handful of passengers are dead. She meets Emile, a member of the French Undergound, becomes Clementine and continues to collaborate with other members of the Underground to successfully complete missions, while at the same time trying to find her brother Johnny Clay who is missing in action. Despite the action-heavy adventures of Velva Jean, the book is written like a story that still invites the reader to cuddle up in front of a roaring fire and enjoy the storyteller that Jennifer Niven is. The romance angle is covered as well since in Emile, Velva Jean also finds love, a love for which she is willing to risk her life.
I have to admit that I did not read the earlier books by Ms. Niven that dealt with Velva Jean’s life prior to this book and I am not certain if it would have made a difference. I thoroughly enjoyed this book because it is a mix of romance, adventure and history book. I learned quite a bit about the role and origin of the WASP, an organization that I knew existed, but its meaning and relevance really I had not fully grasped until this book. The storyline is fast paced, romance is definitely present, but plays a minor role in the story.
Living in North Carolina, I am always interested in reading books by authors from this state and Ms. Niven, as I found out while researching this author, hails from North Carolina and has written her heroine Velva Jean to be from this area as well. This may explain to some degree why I enjoyed the book so much, but I really have to give credit to Ms. Niven’s excellent historical research and her writing style, which reminds me of the storyteller tradition in Appalachia. Her book is reading like a story, easy to follow, despite the storyline full of adventure. Ms. Niven is a true modern day storyteller.