The Golden Doves: A Novel

Image of The Golden Doves: A Novel
Release Date: 
April 17, 2023
Ballantine Books
Reviewed by: 

“With well-developed characters and powerful, descriptive narrative and dialog, Kelly captures the reader’s heart and mind. This is a triumphant, wild journey . . .”

Parisian Arlette LaRue and American Josie Anderson work for the French Resistance and the Allies during WWII. They live in Paris, in an apartment next to a building occupied by Nazi intelligence and the Gestapo. When their window is open, they listen to Germans speaking with each other about planned military operations, including their strategy to defend against the Allies’ invasion on D-Day. The result of their spy operations gives the Allies critical military intelligence information. Armed with only a radio/transmitter, they eagerly send the results of their spying to Allied High Command.

Josie and Arlette eventually become so successful that they are tracked by Nazi scouts. The Nazis give them the moniker, “The Golden Doves.” They have only a five-minute broadcast window before Nazi radio-finding vans can locate their apartment. Eventually, they spend a little more time broadcasting than they should. They are discovered, arrested, and sent to the notorious Nazi concentration camp, Ravensbrück, in Germany.

At Ravensbrück, our protagonists and their families suffer greatly at the hands of brutal German guards. A Nazi physician named, “Dr. Snow,” performs horrible medical experiments on Josie’s mother and Arlette, leaving lasting scars, physical as well as emotional.

Arlette’s infant son, Willie, has blond hair and blue eyes. His “Aryan” appearance is noticed by the Nazis. They take him away from Arlette, sending him to be raised in a German home, by a family unknown to Arlette. The emotional loss is crushing. Eight years later, Arlette discovers a man who runs a home for orphaned children in French Guyana. She travels there with him in search of her lost son. But Willie had been given a different name by his “adopted” German family. After eight years, the remnants of a lost toddler can appear very different in an older child. She discovers a boy that looks like Willie, but she cannot be certain.

Two years after that, in 1952, Arlette and Josie are brought together again to hunt down and capture the dangerous Nazi Dr. Snow who tortured Josie’s mother and Arlette at Ravensbrück. This was a time when both Soviet Russia and the United States were capturing German scientists, to be used in their defense programs and for expertise in launching rockets. Josie was employed after the war by U.S. Army Intelligence. They want Dr. Snow for his extensive research, as does Soviet intelligence. Both women endure tremendous risk and their experience as spies serves them well. Josie seeks revenge against the doctor who horribly tortured her mother, while Arlette’s retribution relates to having her leg badly disfigured by Snow.

Martha Hall Kelly explores the years of World War II, especially in occupied Paris and the infamous Nazi concentration camp for women, Ravensbrück, where Nazis dined on expensive cuisine and prisoners were starved, beaten, sent into forced labor, exposed to dangerous illnesses, and had medical experiments performed upon them, often without anesthesia. At Ravensbrück, the severe brutality employed by Nazis and their henchmen is judiciously exposed. Kelly reveals the deep wounds and scars left in surviving prisoners as a result of the Nazis’ ruthless cruelty. The terror experienced by Josie, Arlette, and their relatives is captivating and vivid. Kelly also explores the era of competition between America and Soviet Russia. In both cases, her effort reveals careful and detailed research.

Kelly’s use of first-person singular storytelling is evocative and haunting. It works extremely well. She alternates protagonists’ chapter by chapter, as well as alternating chapters by time, before and after the war. This is a persuasive technique. Kelly’s riveting narrative and meticulous research keep the reader focused, anticipating the next part of the story. Her dialogue is authentic and reveals the intimate connection between the protagonists and with minor characters.

This poignant story never fails. With well-developed characters and powerful, descriptive narrative and dialog, Kelly captures the reader’s heart and mind. This is a triumphant, wild journey through dangerous times and terrifying experiences, during and after World War II. Kelly inspires the reader ever onward, desperately seeking the next chapter. These two brave women will capture your imagination and emotion as the breathtaking story unfolds.