Code Name Sapphire

  • Review
By – February 6, 2023

In Code Name Sap­phire, Pam Jenoff presents Miche­line and Mat­teo, a pair of brave sib­lings run­ning the dan­ger­ous Sap­phire Line, a resis­tance net­work in Bel­gium oper­at­ing dur­ing Nazi occu­pa­tion in 1942. They are ded­i­cat­ed to res­cu­ing West­ern air­men who have fall­en behind ene­my lines, help­ing them recov­er from injuries so that they can return to their nec­es­sary mis­sions fight­ing Nazis.

Han­nah Mar­tel has been deeply trau­ma­tized by the pogroms she has endured in Nazi Ger­many. She, along with a shipload of Jews sail­ing en route to Cuba, believes she is escap­ing to a bet­ter life. When the ship is unex­pect­ed­ly reject­ed at Havana’s port, most of the des­per­ate pas­sen­gers are sent back to an uncer­tain future in var­i­ous occu­pied cities.

Han­nah dis­em­barks in Brus­sels, where her cousin, Lily Abels, lives with hus­band Nik, a doc­tor, and young child Geor­gi. Upon hear­ing about Hannah’s expe­ri­ence, Lily agrees to offer her the safe­ty of her home. Though the women were very close grow­ing up, they have long lost track of each oth­ers’ lives and hope to reconnect.

Nik has already been banned from work because he’s a Jew, and he is now treat­ing patients at home. Yet because they are still favored as Bel­gian cit­i­zens, Lily lives in denial of the mount­ing anti­semitism. Han­nah gets involved with the local resis­tance group, and Lily pleads with her not to cause any trou­ble for the fam­i­ly. Thus the cousins’ fate inter­twines with that of Miche­line and Matteo.

This nov­el is a page-turn­er with many close calls and hor­rif­ic scenes. Jenoff depicts dai­ly life in Breen­donk, a tran­sit camp for detainees — the final stop before depor­ta­tion via train to the noto­ri­ous Auschwitz. The sto­ry is based on a real-life attempt by a resis­tance group called the Comet Line to free pris­on­ers from one such train.

From this book, read­ers glean the inge­nu­ity and fast think­ing of resis­tance lead­ers, who worked under con­stant pres­sure and with lit­tle mon­ey or sup­plies. They had to be resilient, and to fig­ure out whom they could trust under the most dif­fi­cult circumstances.

Miri­am Brad­man Abra­hams, mom, grand­mom, avid read­er, some­time writer, born in Havana, raised in Brook­lyn, resid­ing in Long Beach on Long Island. Long­time for­mer One Region One Book chair and JBC liai­son for Nas­sau Hadas­sah, cur­rent­ly pre­sent­ing Inci­dent at San Miguel with author AJ Sidran­sky who wrote the his­tor­i­cal fic­tion based on her Cuban Jew­ish refugee family’s expe­ri­ences dur­ing the rev­o­lu­tion. Flu­ent in Span­ish and Hebrew, cer­ti­fied hatha yoga instructor.

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