North Carolina Libraries, Fall/Winter 2008
By Judi Bugniazet, Montreat College
"The plot is believable and the description of the island life wonderful."
Edward P. Norvell, an attorney working for non-profit land trusts across the state of North Carolina, has written several short stories and a previous book, Southport, A Story of Second Chances. He has a MA in English and creative writing from the City University of New York and a law degree from Wake Forest University.
North Carolina during World War II does not usually bring up images of spies, U-boats, or German submarines, but in 1942 German submarines were all along the East Coast both spying and sinking cargo boats, pleasure craft, and other submarines. The British navy was also present in our coastal waters; without its help, the American navy would have lost far more ships to German U-boats. Many of the details of the operations of the –boats and the British navy are mentioned in this nook. It was very interesting to read a book of fiction that was so well researched; the attention to historical detail makes this a fascinating book.
The story starts when Marcia, a recently widowed woman, finds a man who gives his name as Bruce Hall. Bruce claims to be the only survivor of the British submarine, the HMS Bedfordshire, which washed up onshore after being sunk by a German U-bot. Bruce is actually Kurt Sanger, a spy from the U-boat that sunk the British submarine. Sanger was sent onshore to find out what happened to the submarine and the Enigma machine it was carrying. Marcia finds him on the beach and takes him to her home, where she nurses him and eventually they fall in love.
The author's purpose seems to be not only to give the reader an education about the submarine activity during World War II, but also to weave in the feel of the Portsmouth area, the Outer Banks, and the people who loved there. The United States blacked out a lot of the story of the U-boats on our coast, and that historical information, now brought to light, is very interesting. The plot is believable and the description of the island life wonderful. The characters, however, were a little underdeveloped. The love scenes seemed to be bit forced, but that could also be the reviewer's bias, not being a fan of romance fiction.
This book is most suitable for libraries in North Carolina, and for libraries that have a collection of World War II books. The book's bibliography would be a good starting point for anyone doing research on the Ocracoke area during the Second World War. This reviewer enjoyed Portsmouth and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in World War II, or who has a love of the Outer Banks.