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If I retreat, shoot me, by Dave Baker

Discussion in 'Book Reviews' started by ColHessler, Sep 25, 2018.

  1. ColHessler

    ColHessler Member

    Dec 5, 2010
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    Length: 285 pages, counting acknowledgements.

    This is a novel, set in South Africa during WWII, and is the story of the Rousseau brothers. The older brother, Pierre, is a farmer who, like his father, is a Boer who became loyal to the British and is willing to fight against the Axis. The younger brother, Jan, is a law student who is pro-Hitler, and we see him in the early part of the book reading Mein Kampf. With South Africa's declaration of war, Pierre joins the Air Force and ends up an air gunner. Jan goes to law school and finds a fellow Boer who gets him involved with the Stormjaers, the paramilitary wing of the Afrikaner group Ossawabrandwag. These people are willing to commit sabotage against their country's war effort.

    The title of the book comes from the oath the Stormjaers take, which includes, "If I retreat, shoot me. If I advance, follow me. If I die, avenge me."

    I like that Baker gives us chapters that take us through a month of action at a time, with no overburdening of words. What action sequences he has, with either brother, is crisp and engrossing. Also that he sprinkled some Afrikaans words throughout to give it some personality.

    I did catch a couple of anachronisms. For instance, in January of '39, Pierre is talking about Jews being deported to the east, and even disappearing. I think that was another couple years in the future. Also, when Pierre gets to Cairo in June of '41, Baker has him meet members of the South African 6th Armored Division, which he says, "had recently been prominent in the liberation of Addis Ababa from the Italians." Um, the South African 6th Armored Division wasn't formed until February of 1943.

    He also makes reference to shuttle bombing, but he's only describing low-level missions, not going on to another airbase and bombing up to attack the same target from another direction. At first I wondered if this was another case of "two people separated by a common language," but upon looking it up, it seems Baker used the term without knowing that.

    As far as action is concerned, Pierre see a lot of action with women, maybe half a dozen, and not so much with the Germans. At least for me, I like and I write war stories with more war in them, and not so many women, but that's me.

    Baker gave us a good, uplifting ending, and it makes the book, for me, worth the time.
    JJWilson likes this.
  2. mconrad

    mconrad New Member

    May 29, 2013
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    QUOTE: "At least for me, I like and I write war stories with more war in them, and not so many women, but that's me."

    Me too. With the obvious exception of my own war, in which no amount of war would be too small, and no number of women too many.

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