I’ll cut to the chase: Dragonfly is extraordinary. Robust characters with fascinating backstories are placed in richly detailed settings where quickly, the reader is transported, immersed, and living on the edge, right along with the characters. Leila Meacham has blown my mind with Dragonfly.
For those who read with their eyes, the book opens with a handy “Cast of Characters” section broken down into “The Americans,” “The Germans,” and “The French,” where characters’ nationalities (but not necessarily allegiances), various names, code names, and roles are listed. (Additionally, there is also an “Explanation of German Military Organizations” list that serves as a great historical refresher.) For those reading with their ears, Dragonfly is performed by full cast narration that is pretty spectacular – more on that later. Since the story has so many main characters, and each of them has three different names, listening to one actor perform each part helped keep them straight. Regardless of the reading method used, readers get plenty of help from the author. Meacham does an amazing job of first sketching, then filling-in the characters until each is fully fleshed-out, relatable, real.
“Secrecy would be their greatest protection against betrayal.”
The main characters’ stories unfold both separately and at times overlapping and weaving together. Each recruit is handpicked for his/her unique skills to serve the OSS, but also each has a personal reason to go to France. If one were to plot a chart, the visual would be a somewhat parallel series of lines that roll and spike up and down as our young spies navigate the dangerous world of Nazi-occupied Paris. The novel is long (eighteen hours on audio, just under 600 pages in print), but Meacham’s writing is brilliant, and she scatters scenes throughout that not only entertain but inform and summarize to help readers keep on track in a complex, multi-tiered plot.
“Sometimes the greater good requires casualties.”
The historical element of Dragonfly is outstanding. Meacham brings facts into the story, reminding (or informing) readers of the realities and complexities of war. In particular, the descriptions of Paris as it experienced Nazi occupation were poignant as Meacham contrasted the formerly vibrant, bright, flower-filled city with its dark, dreary, grim condition during the German occupation. It’s as if the life force of the city is slowly ebbing. Yet even here, where everyone is suspicious and suspect, there are flashes of hope, and splashes of the best in human nature in the midst of the worst.
ABOUT THE AUDIO: As mentioned, this full cast narration is excellent. Pacing was perfect – I never changed the speed of the audio, which is rare, and the volume was even, the sound crisp, and the production free of any technical glitches. The narrators handle not only the numerous American accents (A+ for Southern), but German and French, and French and Germans speaking English. My only complaint is that many of the French pronunciations were botched when the character speaking would have known better than to pronounce a word ending -s or -t, for example.
As Dragonfly winds its way down to the conclusion, the reader has information that the characters do not, with the result being a satisfying, emotional ending. As I listened to the final scenes, I was driving into the Texas Hill Country sunset, grinning from ear to ear, with tears were streaming down my face. Perfection.
Thank you to Lone Star Book Blog Tours, Grand Central Publishing, and most of all, Leila Meacham for sharing this spectacular story with me in audio and GORGEOUS print, with no strings attached. My review is my honest opinion – the only kind I give. This full review and more special features on Hall Ways Blog.
“Remember your promise to me. Yours always, Derrick Albrecht.”
The quoted passage above will always haunt me.
Dragonfly is the most resplendent fiction story around World War II that is powerfully, told through the storytelling vision of its author, Leila Meacham. By the time the last words of one the main characters words were spoken I was crying.
I have a reverence for, Leila who was a completely unknown author to me. She crafted a story whose characters will long live in my memories. While the story is wrapped around what seems to be a long one hundred and one chapters – taking away any part of those chapters would take away from this beautiful story. Every word is needed for the story. The character backgrounds were detailed enough where you cared about them. The horrid atrocities of World War II were perfectly woven with words that reminded me that the horrors of any war cannot and should not be forgotten.
I initially read the first few chapters and the ending chapters. The latter required my eyes on the words so I could stop and wipe tears away as they streamed out of eyes to continue reading. Then I listened to the ending chapters and the tears flooded back.
This is my third audiobook thankfully, it was beyond splendid. It is an enthralling story of how five young American spies who did their part in the war effort to save lives. Hearing the Dragonfly story through the voices of each of the narrators I was immediately transported back to a time and era that I had only heard about from my Aunt Dorris and Uncle Freddie. Oh, I how I wished as I continued listening to this story that my Aunt Dorris was still alive to have listened to the story along with me. The audio chapters alternate between women and men narrators smoothly. If the audio had been only one male or a one-woman voice it would not have had such an echoing and memorable impact. The narration is brilliantly carried out making you wish you were seeing the story unfold on a movie screen.
It is said that dragonflies symbolize transformation, as well as happiness. The characters in Dragonfly were transformed for the greater good of serving our country and in the end, found happiness in life in spite of what they experienced during WWII.
Dragonfly has become one of my top historical fiction books. Dragonfly is simply the best book of 2019. If you love historical fiction woven around historical truths, especially WWII – then you should not miss this book in any version of its publication.
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