Review The Flutist of Arnhem – Antonio Gil

In October 1943, all the Special Operations Executive (SOE) agents in Holland are captured by the Germans . . . except one. John Hewson, a.k.a. “Boekman,” is the most dangerous agent to the German occupiers, with vital information about the German army, Boekman escapes the clutches of the S.S. and stays hidden until the start of the largest airborne operation in World War II: Operation Market Garden. When the SOE learn that Boekman is still alive, and that his estranged son, Harry, is on the ground fighting in Market Garden, Harry is tasked with organizing a small commando unit to rescue Boekman and try to escape through the German siege. The Battle of Arnhem unfolds day by day as father and son search for each other amidst the chaos of war and the dogged pursuits of a cruel Gestapo agent.

I have to start this review of with saying that my dad lives opposite Hartenstein, which served as the British headquarters during this operation. The Husband and I have joined in with the Airborne commemoration walk (the largest one-day hiking event in the world) several times now. So we are familiar with the area and somewhat with the story. So when we saw this graphic novel on Netgalley we were very excited to see something fairly close to us, and decided to request it for a buddyread.

So you will understand our disappointment when this novel turned out to not be that good. Well, not good at all, to be honest.

I didn’t have a good time with it at all, and found it quite a chore to get through. There are some errors in there that can be edited out, sure. The maps were incorrect, as were the Dutch translations. I cannot speak for the accuracy of the Polish… but I am rather confused as to why these languages were incorporated (which is great) but the author didn’t bother with German.

Something else that bothered me that some of the pages had Way too much text on them. I understand it would be difficult to explain the operation succinctly, but still… this was just too much.

The art style was fine. Nothing that blew me away (apart from a some full page spreads), but nothing that bothered me either.

The plot didn’t make much sense to me… but that might be my lack of understanding of military tactics. The way I understood it Boekman is in possession of intelligence on where the German troops are situated. But operation Market Garden is set almost a year after he gained that information… I would imagine this to not be accurate anymore by then. Again, maybe I read it wrong. I thought the idea of the flutist was very cute, but also very impractical and unrealistic. Why would you actively attract attention to yourself when you are in hiding?

But for me one of the biggest issues with this novel is that it relies very heavily on tell, not show. And especially in such a visual experience I found it really jarring. Show me that the Germans blow up the bridge, show me that the character becomes a hero. Also, when you do show me things, don’t also go and tell me about them. I can see he is holding an umbrella (where it came from I still do no know), I can see there is smoke rising. All of this also made the pacing feel very off.

I found reading this a very frustrating experience. I really wanted this to be good… but it wasn’t. So now I’m going to watch A Bridge too far instead… because at least that has Sean Connery and Michael Caine in it.

6 thoughts on “Review The Flutist of Arnhem – Antonio Gil

  1. Hurray for Michael Caine!

    Looking at that picture you included of the page with the wall of text. Oy vey! If you need that much text in a graphic novel, then the artist isn’t doing their job. Which seems to tie in directly with that you complained for the show and tell. Seems like someone who wasn’t familiar with how graphic novels work was in charge of this 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The movie is from ‘77, so a Much younger Michael Caine. It’s a long movie, but looks great from what I saw skimming through it.

      Yeah, the author does really know what he is talking about, but you can read he usually writes for very different kinds of texts (I’m guessing musea and or school books… it states in the back he had hundreds of publications, yet I can’t find anything on him online).

      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I saw this on Dave’s blog I thought two things:

    1. I have never seen so much text on one graphic novel page.
    2. I’m glad I didn’t blindly follow him into requesting it like I did Vampire State Building.

    Fingers crossed your next Netgalley pick will be more enjoyable

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hahaha, good call.
      In a different format this might have been decent. But I don’t think the author is familiar with writing graphic novels.

      We both still have plenty of Netgalley books to get through. I’m sure there will be some decent ones in there.

      Liked by 1 person

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