A lot of us are looking back in history these days, most probably because they want to find out about how people 100 years ago dealt with the Spanish flu and its aftermath. But these days, there is another historical date coming up that changed the world in Europe 75 years ago: European V-Day on May 8. Yet not for every country in Europe the war ended on that date. One tiny area on the European map experienced its liberation from the German occupation only on May 9 and May 10, 1945: the British Channel Islands.
What?! They were occupied? Indeed, they were for four long and heartrendingly tough years, without the acknowledgement of the fact of their British motherland and without knowledge of its allies. Which made D-Day go right past the islands’ suffering population and made their liberation almost an afterthought. Historical places such as former machine gun nests, tunnels, remnants of concentration camps, and even underground hospitals bear witness to the German Occupation. They intersperse the wild romantic landscape in a bizarre fashion.
When I vacationed on the island of Guernsey in 1999, as a well-prepared tourist I had known about this dark chapter of the Bailiwick. I had intended to avoid it – but it’s like trying to eat only the chocolate in a chocolate chip cookie. It didn’t work, and I was pretty quickly drawn into a fascinating story of inevitable cooperation in the most isolated place in the European war theater I could imagine. The archives of Britain had only just been opened, and I dug into whatever I could get a hold of – it was not much back then.
While hiking all around Guernsey and Herm and exploring the Island of Sark, which experienced a war story of its own under its Dame and the last liberation in the Channel Islands, a story brewed in my mind that I started writing down while still doing research. A year later, I had a fully revised draft, and I offered it to German publishing houses of all sizes. I’m not even sure there was anything like Books on Demand back then; Amazon certainly started their publishing service only in 2011. Long story short – it was not published. And I stopped trying.
Well, 75 years after Liberation Day (May 9, 1945) in the British Channel Islands, I am proud to say that my original German version “Inseln im Sturm” is finally digitally available as well as in print (www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0863TWXYW/). And so is its entirely overhauled translation, “Islands in the Storm” (www.amazon.com/Islands-Storm-Novel-Susanne-Bacon/dp/B086PLBTHG/).
Set on a fictional island, this is the gist of my story: When German contemporary art gallery owner Anne Briest gets betrayed by her fiancé, she travels to the British Channel Islands to forget. Yet, she finds anything but peace of mind. How are an art fraud, a fake cholera grave, a Russian passport, and a German poem with a weird dedication interconnected? Who is L’Ange Douce? And why is everybody acting in such a reserved way? Anne discovers a story of sacrifice and passion.
If you are into WW II history and into a chapter that is still not this widely known and if you like mysteries with a tinge of romance, this might be your kind of book. To get your mind off your own current worries and travel to a different time and place. And maybe to inspire you to really travel to the Channel Islands one day.