I just thought I would send you a review of the book which I just finished.
"I am a WWII battlefield guide and read an enormous amount of books about Normandy and the operations in France in 1944. What strikes me especially about Young, Brave and Beautiful by Violette's daughter Tania is the extraordinary ability Violette had to draw on a very powerful inner strength in times of peril. I am lucky enough to be friends with many WWII veterans, including paratroopers who jumped from C47s over Sainte Mčre Eglise, infantrymen who landed on the beaches and many more who fought through the hedgerows of France and beyond. The telling difference between the courage they showed and Violette's was their reliance on being shoulder to shoulder with their comrades in times of adversity. Anyone who was encircled at Bastogne for example will tell you that there were dark moments, times when they felt all was lost. But there was always a buddy there to lift your spirits, with a joke, a kind word or a pat on the back. Violette's missions with the SOE so often called for her to be completely alone in a hostile land, where even seemingly friendly faces could mask traitorous intentions. Therefore her ability to survive with only her own inner resolve to sustain her are nothing short of remarkable. I shudder to think at the experiences she suffered at the hands of the Nazis and cannot for a second comprehend how she was able to keep positive during those bleak times. Considering that she was just in her early twenties only serves to heighten my admiration, indeed it's much more than admiration, part of myself fell in love with Violette whilst reading and at the end of Young Brave and Beautiful I felt I had lost a friend. I thank Tania for "colouring in" the story of her mother's wartime service, I had known the story in basic impersonal detail for many years but had not known the person behind the story - now I do."
January 09 Ian S, Merseyside, England Hope you are well amidst all the gloom and doom (winter ilnesses, weather and economy). I have not been so busy workwise for many a year and so I am currently making hay while the sun shines, so to speak. It seems far longer than two months since we were at the Royal Armouries in Leeds. How is your work on your father progressing? Any exciting trips planned? I am currently reading Young Brave and Beautiful again and did not realise how much I actually missed first time round!
November 08 Patrick C, London, England
Have just finished your book which had me enthralled for weeks. In fact several chapters I read over and over again, to let it sink in! Most enjoyable and informative, but ultimately, very sad. It is a book that I shall doubtless read many times.
I have ordered a book on the life of one of Violettes friends, Harry Peulevé.
From your book, I gather that he really adored her.
On 18th November, the British Film Institute are having an event on SOE and Violette in particular. You are probably aware of this already! The website is www.bfi.org.uk.
14 September 2008 From Ian S, UK: I have finally finished reading your book!! Firstly I have to congratulate you on the quantity, and depth, of information that the book contained. You have clarified a number of areas that I was unsure of and backed up my own personal views in several others. To a large degree I judge a book on the involvement that I feel when reading and there were so many occasions when I felt as if I was present. Before reading Young Brave and Beautiful I knew absolutely nothing of the details surrounding your mother’s first mission in April 1944. I was amazed to read of Violette's actions and achievements during that month alone. I have also often wondered how, and why, people have questioned the events of the 10th June and the treatment that Violette received when captured. From the evidence of the witnesses who were in the village at the time, there can be little doubt that Violette did indeed hold off the Germans while her companion escaped. With regard to the treatment that Violette received when captured, I have always been staggered that some authors suggest that agents such as Violette were treated well during their interrogation. It is almost impossible to believe that any group capable of murdering an entire village of civilians or hanging nearly 100 people, and only stopping because they ran out of ropes, could be sympathetic when it came to handling captured resistors or agents. I was, however, both shocked and distressed when reading of the treatment that the prisoners received on their journey to Germany and Violette and her colleagues received while held at Ravensbrück. … I will, if you do not mind, keep in touch from time to time to find out whether any trips to France or Germany are being arranged. If it was possible I would be greatly honoured to be a part of such a trip. As I stated in my original email, next year it will be 65 years since your mothers brave deeds, the age at which many people retire and as such a poignant anniversary. Should I travel to Jersey I will certainly carry my copy of Young Brave and Beautiful for you to sign. I am also sure that the book that you are writing on the life of Etienne will be equally absorbing. Both Violette and Etienne would have been rightly proud of your efforts.
16 September 2008 Ian S, further extract of later email Of course you can use my comments. After all I am only saying what any right minded person would. I feel angry that people attempt to revise history and besmirch the reputations of real people just to put forward their "fanciful and controversial theories." This is frequently done just to get noticed and often flies in the face of documented or well supported facts. … in the case of Violette there were witnesses, some of whom are still alive, which does little for reversionary views. I can remember my father telling me that during WW1 my grandfather was in a trench in France when a mortar landed next to him and did not explode. Shortly afterwards he would have been killed if it had not been for his cigarette case in his chest pocket stopping a bullet. Surely one of the few examples of smoking being good for your health! Anyway, keep up the good work. Your book is certainly not overly repetitive and, as I said in my email is packed with intricate detail, which adds to the "story." I must admit that while I was reading the section on the first mission and the bike journey in the pouring rain I actually felt cold and wet myself. I also felt as if I was present at the railway stations and could almost smell the steam engines. All good stuff. Be careful not to chop too much. There was only one factual point that I questioned. I am not 100% on this, but thought the German Officer in charge at Avenue Foch was Keifer and not Leifer. But I could well be wrong. [TS note: a typing error – the K and L are next to one another. I must do better!] There was another section where you referred to a female agent who had supported the view of Violette that they had been shopped by a spy in the midst. I think this may have been Madeleine Damerment who parachuted into a waiting trap.
5 August 2008 Keith F extract, UK I have stopped reading your book as I could see me easily finishing it in one go, and I was hoping to keep it for my holidays where I could read it relaxed in the sunshine.
31 July Bruce T, Consultant, NZ Well I have just this morning finished the book. …No question. It is really good. […] you seemed to want to "humanise" Violette. This was my term for what you have done really well. I would have enjoyed knowing Violette. There is little doubt in my mind, that this would not have been an easy book for you to write. ...parts of the book especially would have been hard for you to research and write. If I had tears in my eyes, then I can only guess about you. [...] It is, for me, the best of its type that I have read. 26 August 2008 Claire, 13 extract, UK I will thank you again for the book, every time I even look at it it makes me smile! I watched Carve Her Name with Pride, while on holiday and every time I still cry when, in the film, they say the poem. I always say it in my head along with them! I hope my dad has emailed you. I told him to, but I know how forgetful he is and I have also decided that when I am a fully qualified historian I will move to Jersey and then to France, well, that’s what I want to do so far!
24 July 2008 John T extract, bookseller, UK Just to let you know that your splendid book has arrived. And to thank you for the inscription, which I know will delight the other Jean. Do please let us know if you publish any more on this subject.
Reviews at the launch of Young Brave and Beautiful, on 15 November 2007 at the Jersey War Tunnels
Violette with Tania
"That her George Cross was awarded posthumously in 1946 was all the more poignant when one remembers that it was received by her four-year old daughter, Tania, who so many years later, has produced this totally unique account of her mother's life and work." Author, Jack Higgins.
"Violette is an inspiration to those young people today doing the same work with the risk of the same dangers. In Afghanistan and Iraq and other troubled regions of the globe, young people are risking their lives in covert operations, although their stories are seldom told. Violette's spirit lives on in them. ... [Young Brave and Beautiful]is written in an intensely personal style that could only have been written by a daughter of the protagonist. It is a true story of what had happened, one that had not been told fully until now." Lieutenant-Governor of the Island of Jersey, General Andrew Ridgway, 15 November 2007 at the launch of Young Brave and Beautiful.
"Young Brave and Beautiful is not a biography but rather a reconstruction of Violette's voluntary secret missions to France. The details of her lone mission to Rouen have not been told before. The work is painstakingly researched and lovingly produced. The book is on sale at the Jersey War Tunnels." Alasdair Crosby, News Focus, Jersey Evening Post, 16 November 2007.
"Félicitations pour un tel travail. C'est un bel hommage pour ta maman: 'une jeune, courageuse et belle femme' comme tu l'écris, et pour moi, l'inoubliable compagne des mauvais jours, qui m'a aidée ŕ survivre." Huguette Deshors, who shared with Violette a Gestapo cell in Limoges in June 1944. (Tania translates: "Congratulations for such a work. It is a fine tribute to your mum: 'a young, brave and beautiful woman' as you write, and for me, the unforgettable companion of bad days, who helped me to survive.")
Violette's George Cross
“As you know [Tania] I have written a few pages on your Mum and been to the museum of course and would like to buy your book - also I will put it on the bibliography [of the George Cross database site] as well as on the news section of the website - as soon as I get home in about two weeks." Marion Hebblethwaite March 2008
Reviewed by MarionHebblethwaite
for the George Cross Data Base "It's not easy to write a book. It's not as easy to write a book about your mother. It's not easy to write a book about your mother when she was one of the most famous, most brave women of the 20th Century. And, it's not easy to write a book when your famous, brave mother died before you were able to ask her any meaningful questions. Yet, that is what TaniaSzabó has done. She has neither romanitcised nor sensationalised Violette's story. She has researched every aspect of her mother's short and ultimately heroic life and for obvious reasons has had to imagine what Violette might have thought or said at any given point. There is no one who could have written this book any better. "When I was a young girl, having read RJ Minney's Carve her Name with Pride, I was taken to see the film version and cried with everyone else in the audience. The time has come for a new generation to know Violette's story both in print and on the screen and I hope that Tania's story of her mother will inspire a Director to make that film. She is also working on a book about her father, Etienne Szabó, whose life was one big adventure; as a young man in Europe during the first decades of the 20th Century, and as a Legionnaire fighting from Indochina to Africa to Narvik acquiring one medal after another with the scars to prove his courage. "Violette's mission to Rouen has never been documented before and Tania Szabó has filled in many gaps, giving credit to the many people who were involved in SOE itself or who were part of the French resistance. There were errors of judgement, there were disasters. These were people working under extreme danger and who many times exhibited extraordinary bravery, commitment and loyalty but they were also subject to normal human frailties, doubts and emotions. Tania has consulted widely and her book is a testament to her own dedication. "It is said that Violette became an agent in revenge for the death of her beloved husband Etienne Szabó. I believe it is really a story of love; the love of a woman for a man so cruelly taken from her and the love of a daughter for her mother, similarly taken." GC Historian and compiler, Marion Hebblethwaite, email@example.com, 4 April 2008
The Croix de Guerre with Bronze Star
Violette's George Cross presented by King George VI to her daughter, Tania, aged 4 1/2 at Buckingham Palace in the winter of 1947. Violette's Crooix de Guerre awarded by Colonel Rivier in September of 1944 inabsentia as she was already destined for Ravensbruck Concentration Camp where she was executed as a British Agent probably on 26 January 1945. She was still only 22 years of age. Tania at the age of 7 was presented with it at the French Embassy in Rutland Gate by Amassador Massigli.
The words on the reverse of Violette's George Cross read:
VIOLETTE, MADAME SZABO, WOMEN'S TRANSPORT SERVICE, (F.A.N.Y.) 17 December 1946
Reverse of Violette's George Cross awarded posthumously by King George VI
Royal Scroll with George Cross awarded to Lieutenant V.R.E. Szabo
Violette's parachute badge gained at Ringway
"...[I] certainly enjoy reading your book, especially as ... it focuses primarily on the reconstruction of your mother's two missions in France, one at Rouen-Le Havre, and the other [in the] Haute Vienne, where she acted with such courage and resourcefulness. It must have been emotionally difficult for you researching and recounting the circumstances of her capture and execution, but the knowledge that in the face of adversity and horror she was still able to find humour in life, must fill you with great pride. We will place Young Brave and Beautiful in our reference library at FANY HQ, which will give other members the opportunity of reading your mother Violette's fascinating if tragic story." Commandant Annie Cockram, Commanding Officer, FANY (PRVC) 20 February 2008
Fany (Princess Royal's Volunteer Corps) Emergency Response for London Civil and military response
November 18 2008 British Film Institute Southbank Showing of Carve Her Name With Pride Go to http://www.bfi.org.uk/whatson/violette_szabo_and_the_special_operations_executive_0 for all details and tickets. Morning: 10.30 am Afternoon Matinee for senior citizens Luncheon Talks Among those present: Director, Louis Gilbert; Star, Virginia McKenna; Author of Young Brave and Beautiful, Tania Szabó, daughter of Violette Szabó, George Cross whose life is encapsulated in the film.
Logo of FANYs, the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry with a long history of voluntary service in civil and military emergencies all over the world
"FANYs registered missing people from the Tsunami of Boxing Day 2004, they worked on the Ops Room Media desk during the Firefighters' Strikes and dealt with casualty enquiries after the Potters Bar and Hatfield train crashes. In the London Bombings of July 2005, FANYs were called out by the City of London Police to open up the Casualty Bureau; they went on from there to give assistance to the overworked Met. Police in the Fusion Cell at Scotland Yard for over two and a half weeks, following the incidents.
"The Corps continuously offers a full and varied training programme designed to build confidence, develop existing skills and introduce new experiences, enabling members to be fully equipped to deal with whatever is asked of them. The Corps prides itself on its flexibility and ingenuity. Preparing for the unexpected is hard to specify, but the Corps produces teams familiar with one another's strengths, confident together and supportive of one another." 2008
Wanborough Manor by Tania Szabo, SOE house, where Violette did part of her SOE training.
“The book itself is an extraordinary well researched chronicle of a truly heroic woman. The glimpses into prewar and wartime Paris and Rouen make wonderful reading” Jon Silvers, Honours Degree at Columbia University, US, businessman and IT expert, December 2007.
"...at once I realised what intense devotion and research is there." Harry Carpenter, OBE, retired BBC Boxing Commentator. February 2008
Young people intrigued by the instruments used in the Second World War
"We wish you every success with YB&B - it is beautifully written and bound to be a bestseller." Sylvia and William de Glenn, Devizes.
Chief Executive of Jersey War Tunnels, PaulSimmonds said: “Jersey War Tunnels firm belief in the success of this publication was the motivation for purchasing the entire first edition of Young Brave and Beautiful. Whilst there have been many publications in the past detailing an account of Violette’s life it is only now that such a comprehensive and accurate account of her missions as a Special Operations Executive Agent is told and by the most appropriate person, her daughter Tania. The response has been tremendous, even before the launch we received a number of both local and overseas requests for signed copies. As a consequence we have added extra signing dates to give everyone a chance to meet Tania and take away the very unique keepsake that is Young Brave and Beautiful.”