At a time when true identities are carefully protected and information can get you killed, heroes emerge to fight the evils of Nazi-occupied Norway in J.L. Oakley’s highly suspenseful and beautifully penned historical fiction novel, The Jøssing Affair.
In a quiet Norwegian fishing village during the Nazi occupation, risk lurks everywhere. Most residents are patriotic members of the resistance, “jøssings,” but there are “quislings,” too. Those who collaborate with the Germans and tout the Nazi propaganda of Nordic brotherhood between the nations. Mistaking the two is a matter of life and death.
At the heart of the narrative is Jens Hansen who is an exceedingly mild-mannered handyman and a deaf-mute. Jens helps his friend Kjell on this fishing boat but mostly keeps to himself, communicating with paper and pencil when asked a question.
But Jens has a secret. His real identity is that of Tore Haugland, a man who will risk his life repeatedly as a British-trained member of the resistance. He and Kjell coordinate the transport of weapons and agents via the “Shetland bus,” a fleet of small fishing boats and a few American submarine chasers, that make excursions from the coast of Norway to the Scottish Shetland Islands.
Haugland and Kjell also assist the young Norwegian men who fled enlistment in the German army and are starving in the woods. Armed with the knowledge that war is ugly and men often break under brutal interrogation and tortured before their deaths, Haugland and Kjell share the scantest details about themselves with each other.
There are many heart-stopping moments in this novel, deeply affecting episodes told with poignant precision and a sense of awe for the real-life counterparts Oakley’s characters portray.
Amidst the intrigue and suspense occurring on the seas, daily life in the village may seem calmer, but Oakley deftly demonstrates the pervasiveness of suspicion and danger during wartime. Villagers snub Anna, a beautiful young widow whom they mistakenly believe to be a quisling. As the Allied Invasion progresses through Europe, liberating towns and countries alike, the residents of Fjellstad fear that the German forces will hang on until the last bitter moments in their beloved Norway. How many will die before that time comes?
Oakley clearly did exhaustive research when writing this book. A voluminous amount of details is provided on all aspects of the Resistance in Norway. No stone is unturned and the reader benefits. In addition, the reader learns a great deal about Norwegian life and customs, about an exceptionally hearty people who annually experience four phases of winter and midnight sunshine during summer. They are not a people to be subjugated, and this book showcases how they fought the German occupation with every means available to them.
The Jøssing Affair is a highly enriching experience, a fascinating and profound work of historical fiction penned by, J.L. Oakley, one of the best in the business. A certain testimony to the underground heroes of WWII who put aside personal safety for a cause much bigger than themselves. Their courage is acknowledged in this superbly gripping novel.