One of the first war movies I ever watched was A Bridge Too Far. It told the story of the paratroopers who dropped into the Netherlands during World War II as part of Operation Market Garden. Since that time, I have studied the battles of that operation, played tabletop and video games about those battles, and even taught these battles to my students. Therefore, when I heard about The Flutist of Arnhem, I had to read this graphic novel.
What Is The Flutist of Arnhem?
The graphic novel The Flutist of Arnhem tells the story of British efforts to capture the bridge over the Rhine at Arnhem using Airborne troops. It was written and illustrated by Antonio Gil. The book is published by Dead Reckoning, an imprint of the Naval Institute Press. It is available in a softcover edition, which can be purchased at your local bookstore as well as several online sellers including Amazon. com. A Kindle digital version is also available. The suggested retail price for both editions is $24.95.
The Flutist of Arnhem focuses on a father and son. The father, John Hewson, is a British officer of the SOE working behind enemy lines in the Netherlands who has compiled vital intelligence which he needs to get to the Allied high command. His information could help win the war. The novel starts off with a German Gestapo officer hunting down Allied spies in the Netherlands, and his main target is the father. Harry, the son who has not seen his father in a decade, is a British paratrooper who has landed near Arnhem. During the fighting, he is sent with a small group to find and rescue his father and the intelligence he has gathered. The flute the son finds, and the melody he plays on it, links the father and son both through time and during the rescue effort.
The novel explains the background of the battle as Field Marshall Montgomery sells Operation Market Garden to General Eisenhower as a way to secure a series of bridges that will allow Allied troops to enter Germany and win the war before the end of 1944. Three airborne divisions, the US 82nd and 101st and the British 1st, would all drop into the Netherlands to capture and hold key bridges over rivers and canals and prevent the Germans from blowing them up. Then the British XXX Corp, with its tanks, would advance along roads to relieve the paratroopers and secure the bridges for use in advancing into Germany.
The Flutist of Arnhem is not intended to be a history of Operation Market Garden or even of the British paratroopers around Arnhem. Instead, it is a story set during this event. The lack of intelligence the Allies had regarding German forces in the Netherlands, which is an important aspect of this novel, was one of the factors that had a large impact on the results of the operation. There were more German forces, especially armored units, in the area than the Allies realized. Throughout the main story, there are also vignettes that inform the reader about the overall operation so as to help illustrate how to story fits in with the events.
Why Should You Read The Flutist of Arnhem?
Antonio Gil’s writing is rich and powerful, while his illustrations are detailed and beautiful. Without resorting to gratuitous violence, he portrays the courage of the men and women who participated in the war effort and the sacrifices that they made. Readers can easily connect with the main characters and will find themselves captivated by the story, making this graphic novel difficult to put down. Even though I am fairly familiar with the events of Operation Market Garden, I learned quite a bit while being entertained at the same time. We often hear about the French Resistance and their efforts preparing for and actions during the D-Day Invasion. However, the work of other resistance units—such as the Dutch—has not been portrayed as often. I highly recommend The Flutist of Arnhem as a wonderful story about the humanity which exists during the horrors of war. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this graphic novel and look forward to Antonio Gil’s next work.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a copy of this book for review purposes.