Best 1942 Adventures (10)

By: Joshua Glenn
January 14, 2017

One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1942 adventure novels. Happy 75th anniversary!


Helen MacInnes’s espionage adventure Assignment in Brittany.

Probably my favorite MacInnes novel! Bertrand Corlay, an injured Breton soldier, happens to look remarkably similar to Martin Hearne, an Englishman who works for British Military Intelligence — and who speaks fluent French. So Hearne is parachuted into occupied northern France, in the summer of 1940, with the assignment of passing information about German troop movements back to HQ. In order to avoid detection and capture, Hearne must fool not only Corlay’s mother, but his beautiful girlfriend. Who turns out to be a Nazi sympathizer; Corlay, it seems, ws not what he claimed to be. (There’s a romantic “Martin Guerre” aspect to Hearne’s adventure.) Betrayal and violence ensue — and we grow to appreciate the grim camaraderie that arises among an occupied people. Also, we learn quite a bit about Breton language, customs, and history.

Fun fact: Serialized in The Saturday Evening Post in 1942; the book was required reading for Allied intelligence agents sent to work with the French underground. Adapted as a movie, starring Jean-Pierre Aumont and Signe Hasso, in 1943.


Let me know if I’ve missed any 1942 adventures that you particularly admire.


Adventure, Lit Lists