On November 7, 1942, Nicole Solignac arrived in Algiers, North Africa, to attend the University of Algiers. An only child sheltered and protected by her parents in Tunisia, she was stunned when the Allied forces attacked Algiers during the early morning hours of November 8. She had a great deal more strength and chutzpah than she or her parents every imagined, surviving admirably the hardships in Algiers for six months before returning to her parent’s home in Tunisia. Food
was almost nonexistent, electric power was sketchy at best; still, she survived doing menial jobs
until she was offered a position as translator for the British Navy.
Eventually, she joined the French Army as a translator, helping Allied forces in Italy. O’Connor writes a compelling tale of the facet of World War II she witnessed and experienced. She does not leave out the other women who served with her, some as translators and others as ambulance drivers. History books forget that animals served in the war as well – she accompanies an officer to a beachhead area and finds the bodies of 400 dead mules rotting in the sun. The animals had been shipped from Morocco and died during transit due to their handler’s ignorance in moving large animals by ship.
Her language is a bit formal and precise, but charming and thoroughly engrossing. This
could be an excellent book for high school students to read as an adjunct to their American history course. Mektoub is a Muslim expression meaning “it is written”, and O’Connor does an excellent job of sharing the story of her destiny with her readers.