Medallion by Richard Whitten Barnes is a historical novel set in Norway and Great Britain during World War II. Karin Hansen, an American pilot of Norwegian descent, travels to Great Britain in 1940 to take part in the British Air Transport Auxiliary. There she meets Arne Solberg, a personal guard to Norway’s exiled royal family, which has narrowly escaped Oslo on the eve of German occupation. In Germany, Oberleutnant Horst von Prohn has been assigned to a civilian posting under a Nazi appointee tasked with occupying Norway. The paths of these three main characters cross sporadically over the next several years. Karin and Arne begin to fall in love. Arne carries out missions with Norway’s resistance fighters under Horst’s nose.
Eventually the strands of the three divergent plot lines weave themselves into a Gordian knot in which Karin and Arne must escape Horst’s detection while working for him and concurrently devising a plot for rescuing Norway’s national treasure of historically minted gold coins—all 2500 kilograms of it.
Other characters enter and exit, lending charm, courage, expertise, and sometimes comic relief. Of particular note (and possibly my favorite character) is Iver Lindahl, a teenage Norwegian who gains Horst’s trust by helping to track down Norwegian resistance fighters. Or does he? Cameo appearances by well-known historical figures such as Jacqueline Cochran and Vidkun Quisling add to the believability of the plot.
The structure of alternating the story line among the three main characters challenges the reader to keep pace. While the multiple views increase the staccato effect of the action, they leave less room for character development. Overall, Medallion is an appealing wartime story, and it is especially satisfying that the author focused on the little known women civilian aviators, all volunteers, who wore uniforms and flew aircraft during World War II, freeing up male pilots for combat duty.
Review by Betsy Beard (May 2018)
In April 1940 Nazi Germany makes a surprise attack on the major ports and airfields of Norway for control of the North Sea and the precious ore deposits of northern Sweden.
The attack is a stunning success, except for the Capital city. The defense of Oslo stalls the Germans for 24 hours--enough time for the Royal Family, members of the cabinet, and the entire treasury to escape, ultimately to England. Subsequently, Nazi aggression overruns most of Europe, looting its treasuries and treasures.
Karin Hansen, a young American fresh from a summer of barnstorming and air shows in her uncle’s biplane, has joined the British Air Transport Auxiliary--a civilian service organized to free up pilots for the war effort. She advances from single-engine trainers to sophisticated warplanes, delivering them from factories to strategic RAF airfields.
By chance, her path crosses with that of Arne Solberg, a young Norwegian commando in the employ of the Royal Family-in-exile, who has been charged with rescuing one of Norway’s most cherished treasures from being stolen back to Nazi Germany.
Medallion is the story of two young lovers and the treachery of occupied Norway. A story you won’t forget.
Book Format(s): Soft cover, Kindle
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction
Review Genre: Fiction—Historical Fiction
Number of Pages: 237