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The Snow Goose by Paul Gallico

I’ve seen two movies based on books written by Paul Gallico: Mrs ‘Arris Goes to Paris starring Angela Lansbury, Omar Sharif and Diana Rigg and the blockbuster 1972 movie The Poseidon Adventure starring Shelley Winters, Gene Hackman, Red Buttons, Stella Stevens, Carol Lynley, Ernest Borgnine, and Jack Albertson. However, I’ve never read anything by Mr. Gallico until now.

Paul Gallico was a movie critic, then a very successful sports writer, but he wanted to write fiction. He wrote short stories for various magazines, got a $5000 check for one story, and promptly retired from sports-writing to write fiction. His first and most successful novel(?) was The Snow Goose. Not really a novel or even a novella, the book clocks in at 58 small, widely spaced pages, and I would call it a short story. It was first published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1940, and The Snow Goose was one of the O. Henry prize winners in 1941.

The story itself is set on the Essex coast of England, beginning in “the late spring of 1930” and ending approximately ten years later. The main action of the story takes place in and around the evacuation of Dunkirk by the British near the beginning of World War II. It’s a romantic, and sad story about an artist, his young friend and protege, and a Canada snow goose that makes its way somehow to the Essex coast and becomes a symbol of hope for survivors of the debacle and rescue that was Dunkirk.

I would think that as a gentle introduction to World War II literature, The Snow Goose would be a winner among high school students. Other books and movies featuring the evacuation of Dunkirk:

Books:
The Miracle of Dunkirk by Walter Lord. Nonfiction.

Dunkirk: The Complete Story of the First Step in the Defeat of Hitler by Norman Gelb. More nonfiction.

Dunkirk: The Men They Left Behind by Sean Longden. Times Online review/

On Rough Seas by Nancy L. Hull. Young adult fiction. Fourteen year old Alex lives in Dover, England in 1939, and he is eventually a hero as he participates in the rescue of the British soldiers at Dunkirk.

The Little Ships: the heroic rescue at Dunkirk in World War II by Louise Borden. Picture book. “A young English girl and her father take their sturdy fishing boat and join the scores of other civilian vessels crossing the English Channel in a daring attempt to rescue Allied and British troops trapped by Nazi soldiers at Dunkirk.”

Dunkirk Crescendo by Brock and Bodie Thoene. Rather melodramatic, fast-paced Christian fiction by a pair of prolific writers in the genre of historical fiction. This book is Book #9 of the Zion Covenant series published by Tyndale House.

Atonement by Ian McEwan features Dunkirk in the second half of the story. Semicolon review here.

Movies:
Dunkirk (1958) “Documentary-style film which tells two sides of the evacuation of more than 350,000 troops from Dunkirk beaches in 1940. A British corporal (John Mills) finds himself responsible for getting his men back to Britain from the Dunkirk beaches, after their officer is killed and they are separated from the main allied forces. Meanwhile, a civilian reporter (Bernard Lee) follows the build-up to the eventual evacuation of British and French troops from the beaches of Dunkirk.”

Mrs. Miniver (1942) “Mrs. Miniver nobly tends her rose garden while her stalwart husband participates in the evacuation at Dunkirk. She personifies grace under pressure as the Miniver family huddles in their bomb shelter during a Luftwaffe attack, while she is forced to confront a downed Nazi paratrooper in her kitchen, and while she is preparing for her annual flower show despite the exigencies of bombing raids.” I saw Mrs. Miniver about a year ago, and I thought it was delightful. If you like The Snow Goose and its somewhat sentimental picture of a world at war, you’ll enjoy Mrs. Miniver, too.

The Snow Goose itself was made into a 1971 film starring Richard Harris and Jenny Agutter. I’ve not seen the movie; have any of you?

Nicely maintained website for fans of Paul Gallico and his books.

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