Review: Maggie Bright


I love Tracy Groot's writing for a number of reasons, but a big one is her characters. She loves her characters, so much that you can't help but love them too. They are quirky and spunky and sparking with life. They are ordinary people who find themselves in extraordinary circumstances, facing extraordinary evil, and they defiantly put their little brick in the wall erected against that evil. Groot doesn't write the world-changers—the Hitlers and the Churchills—she writes the common people caught up in the maelstroms of the worldchangers who find a way to do their part in perilous times. How can we do anything but cheer? Groot clearly believes that such small players matter, and matter immensely, seeing as she seems to seek them out in so much of her historical fiction.

In Maggie Bright, it is 1940 and we are in London. The British Expeditionary Force is being pushed back to the beaches of Dunkirk, and Hitler can no longer be dismissed as a delusionary buffoon, not even in far-off America. Maggie Bright is a yacht, one that young Clare Childs has inherited. Little does she realize that along with it, she has inherited a cause. The yacht harbours a secret that she is unaware of, but that others are eager to get their hands on. The Burglar Vicar and far darker characters turn up looking, and Clare gets pulled into a story bigger than herself. The Shrew, an indomitable retired schoolmistress with a shrill shriek and a killer kettle, William, a repressed bobby with a passionate heart under the rigid exterior, and Murray, a young American cartoonist with an international following and his own claim to the Maggie Bright, soon tangle their lives up with hers, and they all find themselves doing battle in one way or another.

At the same time as the Maggie Bright's story is playing out, Private Jamie Elliot is frantically scrambling through Normandy, trying to get safely to Dunkirk with his charge, Captain "Milton", who has lost both his men and his mind and can now communicate only by quoting Milton. The image of the grieving captain laying leaves across the gaping chest wound of a dead French child in a ditch while quoting Paradise Lost is not one that is likely to leave me soon.

Groot's blurbs come from some prominent historians. My husband, who is also a historian, was suitably impressed. This speaks to the quality of her research, and her ability to put a very human face on the great events of history. Maggie Bright will appeal to lovers of history, lovers of humanity, and anyone who believes that small lights shine brightest in the deepest darkness.

Tracy Groot's website