Singing out of key

I've never been that mad on celebrity books. Of course I don't mean by this authors who've become celebrities because of being writers, but those who impose themselves on the reading public because they're well known as a footballer or a comedian or an actor, and decide to turn to writing (or as is often the case - a ghost writer). I recognise that this attitude may not be altogether reasonable. Some may be incredibly talented, but.....well, I just cringe as soon as I see a celebrity name on a book cover.

So quite why Hitler's canary by the comedienne Sandi Toksvig flung itself at me from a library bookshelf, I don't know. I'm not even a Sandi Toksvig fan, although I do rather enjoy novels about the Second World War. And this one, aimed at the younger teenage market, is a cracker.

Set in Denmark between 1940-43, the novel tells the story of the rise of Danish resistance to the Nazi occupation leading to the Danes moment of glory in which they smuggled out virtually every Danish Jew from under the occupying forces' noses. It is a quite incredible tale, not the least because much of what Toksvig relates really happened - her own family were involved, and many of the characters are based on Sandi's family; who are often as gloriously over the top as Toksvig herself.

This is a joyous tale. Toksvig doesn't simplify matters either - not all Danes are good, and not all Germans bad, there is both courage and evil on both sides. But it is a wonderfully life-affirming story and a great contrast to my previous read.


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