I started reading this book last night. When I finished the last page, I got out of bed, made breakfast, then stood in front of the bifolds looking out at the garden while drinking coffee. I watched a magpie watching me, and thought that as long as there are Danes, there maybe hope for the human race after all.
It was 4am, so I was probably a bit more emotional than I usually am.
Now I don’t read a lot of YA fiction. I think the last one was Predator’s Gold from the Mortal Engines series. But I actually made the effort to track this one one down after my much better half (she’s a huge Toksvig fan) played me an interview where Toksvig talked about her family’s involvement in a nationwide plan to the evacuate Danish Jews (or as the Danes liked to call them, Danes) from the occupied Denmark. Toksvig had written a short story about it. I’ve got more than a passing interest in the exploits of Scandinavia during the war. In fact, I thought their sacrifice and bravery has never received the recognition it deserved, so I wrote a book about it. I wrote about Norway, but it could just have easily been Denmark.
I didn’t find Toksvig’s short story, but I did find this book, and as you may have already guessed, I think it’s certainly the best YA novel I’ve ever read.
There were 8000 Jews living in Denmark when the Nazis invaded (April 1940). The country was small, and ill-equipped to fight, and so submitted in pretty short order. In fact, the term Hitler’s Canary was coined by the British press, as they now viewed Denmark as a caged bird, singing for the Nazis. Unsurprisingly, as with most things regarding the British press, nothing could be further from the truth.
To be honest, I don’t do a lot of non-fiction, but this one turned up on Twitter feed because Bernadine Evaristo recommended it. Given the current state of the Western Hemisphere right now, I figured I’m going to need a better position than, ‘You’re being a dick – stop it.’
And that’s what Dr Rutherford has attempted to provide: evidence-based, scientifically-proven reasoning through his extensive knowledge of genetics and race history.
He starts with a fairly deep and fairly dry delve into the science of genetics, covering what genetics is and the thinking behind it, and how are genetic makeup is spread across the world by migrations that occurred thousands of years ago. Now, I’m not the sharpest tool in the box, so I did find a lot it quite … deep, but the important aspect isn’t so much the science, as the history of migration, because this, coupled with environmental adaption, is why this whole race thing is really an artificial construct that has been co-opted by dodgy scientists and white supremacists to justify beliefs that are little more than superstition.
The aristocracy – never had a problem with it until I decided to write a short story about werewolves in high society. Now it turns out there’s a bit missing from my grammar playbook.
Do I write:
‘I’ll bring the car around, Ma’am.’
or is it:
‘I’ll bring the car around, ma’am.’
I was pretty sure it was the second one because I ran across a similar problem while I was writing the Quisling Orchid. The book has a lot of dialogue (as all good books seem to), and a lot of Nazis (not necessarily a requirement for a good book). In this case, I knew I should write:
‘And why did you feel the need to let her go, sargeant?’
Small ‘s’ for sargeant, so I figured it was the same for the aristocracy:
‘I’ll have him flogged, your ladyship.’
though I had this notion that maybe ‘ladyship’ needed a capital letter:
‘I’ll have him flogged, your Ladyship.’
And that just looks weird.
Time for a [insert your favourite search engine here] search, and one of the first results that came up was from Merethe Walther’s seriously excellent blog. This page covers every common capitalisation rule, and a couple I hadn’t thought of. Definitely worth a read if you’re not sure, and still worth a read if you’re absolutely positive you’re doing it right.