Title: For Beau: The Sarah Ashdown Story
Author: Simon Gandossi
Genre: Historical Fiction
Reviewed By: Anita Lock
Pacific Book Review
It is September 7, 2009, sixty-nine years since the Blitz—Hitler’s sustained aerial bombing campaign against Britain during the Battle of Britain (WWII). The date may seem inconsequential to many, except to those who lived through that horrific period. One person who remembers is Sarah Ashdown. Now elderly and fragile, Sarah meets with journalist Daniel Warwick at a local TV station. The station recently gets wind of her story and plans to air it on its current affairs program. Sarah begins her story with a quick overview of besieged England and what her life is like living with her father while her husband is away at war. Sarah frequently finds herself going stir crazy—bored sitting at home with nothing to do.
Nine-year-old Beau, who lives a few doors down from Sarah’s father’s apartment, is enamored with Sarah. But as sweet as she is, Sarah is annoyed with Beau’s incessant questions and desire to hang around Sarah. It is during one of these irritating episodes that Sarah rudely tells Beau to return home. Little does Sarah know that will be the last time she sees Beau…alive. Now riddled with guilt, Sarah considers herself to be a murderer because she believes that she is responsible for Beau’s death. It is not until she learns from Beau’s aunt about the impact Sarah made on Beau’s life that Sarah decides to turn Beau’s senseless death into something meaningful: going against the grain of her father’s wishes, Sarah chooses to fight this war her way.
Australian author Simon Gandossi brings history to life in his newest creation, “For Beau: The Sarah Ashdown Story”. Offering verisimilitude to his shifting third and first person narrative, Gandossi surrounds a host of fictional characters with the realities of war and with women’s involvement in the local resistance movements taking place in occupied European countries. The latter pertains to Sarah who is trained (along with five other women) as a saboteur for the Special Operations Executive (S.O.E.) Gandossi aptly weaves in fascinating aspects of S.O.E. training, such as the use of wireless to transmit codes and the BBC radio “allowing secret codes to be put into their broadcasting schedule.”
“For Beau” in many ways resembles Rose Dawson Calvert’s storytelling as she shares her experiences on the Titanic to Brock Lovett (treasure hunter) and his team on a research vessel (Titanic, 1997 film). Sarah may not be able to get around much, being fragile in her old age, but that doesn’t stop her from being snarky. And why not since she has a powerful story to tell and a captivating audience (A journalist and a whole crew from the local TV station) who want to hear her amazing WWII spy adventures.
Again, much like the 1997 film, Gandossi grabs his readers’ attention by constantly alternating between the interview and the WWII reenactment. Because of the light movie-book comparisons, some readers may consider Sarah’s personality and life story a bit clichéd. Regardless, Gandossi offers plenty of factual tidbits to keep WWII history buffs captivated to the very end.