This Shining Land begins in April 1940 as German troops invade and occupy Norway. During one of the initial bombing raids secretary Johanna Ryen gets a quick introduction to her landlord’s other tenant Steffen Larsen, as they barely make it to the basement shelter in time. Sparks fly (of course) and as the Germans continue to take control of the country and its people Steffen and Johanna become involved in the Norwegian Resistance Movement in a dangerous game of cat and mouse — doing anything and everything to subvert the Germans and gain intelligence for the Allied Forces.
Sounds simple enough, but I found this quite interesting as Laker details not only the politics of the time, but the effects of the occupation by even the smallest details on the populace, as all the basic necessities (food, clothing, etc) were sent to Germany, travel without passes is restricted, radios become secret contraband along with the absolute terror of the constant presence of the Gestapo and SS.
Much of the book is based upon Laker’s husband’s experiences working in the resistance movement and Laker herself came to Norway as a young bride after the liberation. Laker takes the reader on quite a journey from the first bombing of Oslo to hair raising escapes and nail biting close calls, secret rooms, torture at the hands of the Gestapo to a the horrific details of life in a concentration camp, as Steffen and Johanna try to keep themselves and their love alive. While this story is very different from Laker’s usual formula and some of her fans might not care for it, I was quite fascinated and learned much about Norway, its history and customs and how they fought the Nazi occupation. 4.5/5 stars.