A boy on the verge of manhood faces a changing world in: UNDER THE MAGINOT

by N. J. Knowlton

Verdict:  UNDER THE MAGINOT offers a wrenchingly tender look at a continent poised on the brink of war and a boy poised on the brink of manhood.

IR Rating



IR Rating

A young man finds love, adventure, danger and evil in pre-World War II Europe.

Frankie didn’t intend to stow away on the Normandie that evening. His confrontation with his alcoholic, adulterous and abusive father, and his mother’s departure, had left him alone and disowned on the streets of New Jersey. Catching a few hours’ rest on board that ship, he’d found it underway when he woke – and himself in trouble. Rescued by a young, wealthy Englishman named Raymond Spencer, he ends up being swept along on the adventure of a lifetime, following Ray behind the Maginot Line on his mission to make contact with Nazi leaders. The young pair quickly find themselves drawn to each other, as friends and more, but Ray’s mission is more dangerous than it looks, and Frankie finds himself wondering just how much trust he can place in his new love. For whom is Ray truly working? And can he get himself and Frankie safely home, through a Europe about to explode into a Second World War?

UNDER THE MAGINOT LINE is a charming and thoughtful exploration of masculinity, love, and self-discovery in the face of a great and dangerous evil. Frankie is a sweet, trusting boy who, while growing up in the midst of events that would disillusion anyone, manages to hang on to enough of his innocence to remain pure at heart. Ray is dashing, mysterious, and dangerous enough to remain an attractive and sexy love interest while still throwing enough doubt into Frankie’s – and the reader’s – heart to keep the story’s suspense going. A thread of bittersweet tragedy runs through the tale, the heavy knowledge of the horrors to come darkening the book, adding a harsh contrast and bringing an inevitable conclusion to the buoyant, romantic youth of the main characters. The story is short enough to be poetic, capturing a brief but crucial moment in both Frankie’s, and the world’s, history in a vivid and dramatic fashion.

The language and word choice can be a bit awkwardly overblown at times: “Her responsibility as a mother to nurture a quiet and protective environment had been the mortar of her quiescence” for example. An effort to simplify and clarify the writing would drastically improve the story.  A careful edit might also correct mixed up homonyms such as taught” instead of  “taut”.

UNDER THE MAGINOT LINE offers a wrenchingly tender look at a continent poised on the brink of war and a boy poised on the brink of manhood.


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