John Franklin is an English pilot who crashes his plane into occupied France and finds refuge for himself and four sergeants at a nearby farm. Luckily for him, one cool cucumber, Francoise, resides on the farm with her father and her grandmother. Francoise is a smart, young French girl who faces all kinds of adversity, including Nazis, in that awesome French insouciant way, and she isn't at all fazed when five dirty Englishmen pop out of the field while she's feeding her chickens. The men must somehow gain passage out of France, assisted by Francoise and her family. Meanwhile, living in occupied France is no picnic as there are Jerries everywhere, shortages of almost everything, and potential French collaborators lurking about.
This makes the book sound way more adventurous than it is. A lot does happen -- there is the plane crash, Franklin must sneak into town in plain view of the Nazis, there is some gruesome medical stuff, a family tragedy, the escape, and the Nazis being Nazis -- but the book itself is not action-packed. Franklin is anxious to get back to England, but he is very introspective, so the book sort of meanders along. He obviously falls in love with Francoise because she is so awesome, and he isn't above being irrationally jealous of one of the younger sergeants who speaks flawless French; he suffers from intense bouts of homesickness for England; he frets over a serious medical emergency and contemplates a future without flying. There is always an undercurrent of suspense -- will they escape and make it back to England? What will happen between Francoise and Franklin? Will Francoise's family be shot for hiding the Englishmen? -- but it's all very thoughtfully described.
Francoise is the best because every time something dangerous happens, she basically shrugs and takes a long drag of her Gauloises. Franklin is a thoughtful, considerate young man who you realize is only 22 when all this is happening. TWENTY TWO! It continually shocks and appalls me to think of what was asked of young people during the world wars. Yet I remain obsessed.