Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Review - Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman


Published 22nd April 2014 by Headline

Thank you Elaine Egan at Headline Publishing for providing me with a copy

This book intrigued me, any book that refers to the one of the world's most hated men as "Uncle Dolf" deserves a look, a man who killed millions of innocent people because they didn't fit in to his ideal world, a man who was a total psychopath how could he be a caring uncle?

Set in Munich in 1931, the story follows Gretchen Muller, a 17 year old girl who is the epitome of Hitler's Aryan race ideal.  

She lives with her widowed mother who runs a boarding house, her brother Reinhard  who is a member of the SA -Stormtroopers, a division of the National Socialist Party, and her cat who has the best name ever - Striped Peterl.  

Her father is a hero, throwing himself in to the path of bullets meant for Hitler, he died in Adolf's debt and Herr Hitler has since made sure Gretchen is taken care of, she is his "Sunshine" and he teaches her many things such as art and music.

This book paints a vivid image of Munich at this time, a city full of conflicts, the Jewish population are to be avoided by the likes of Gretchen, the story begins with Gretchen witnessing her brother attack a Jewish man with his friend, Gretchen is horrified and stops her brother from hurting the man anymore.  

Her brother is not happy with her doing this but she tells him Hitler would not want the party portrayed in a bad light, Reinhard is truly evil and following Gretchen's rescue of the Jew he sets traps at the boarding house to hurt her, he is really a truly horrible character and he is shown to have psychopathic tendencies which as this book continues get even worse.

As Gretchen goes about her daily life, school, helping her mother, visiting Uncle Dolf she is approached by a stranger, a young man not much older than her, a young man who she shouldn't approach as he is Jewish, his name is Daniel Cohen and a reporter for the despised Munich Post, he asks her about her father and he suggests to her that she needs to investigate his death, he may not have been a hero after all he may have been murdered.

So begins Gretchen's struggle with who and what she knows, people who where supposed to be trustworthy and honourable turn out to be bad and those who she was brought up to believe as filthy and subhuman are honest, intelligent and kind.

She starts to retrace her father's steps and along with help from Daniel starts to find out what really happened.  The more time she spends with Daniel the more her world is turned upside down as her feelings for him change for the better.

This book deals with a wealth of emotion and there are some disturbing scenes involving Gretchen and Reinhard where he brutally attacks her, as I mentioned above he is a horrible human being.  The notorious Hitler also changes in Gretchen's eyes, going from her loving Uncle Dolf to the maniac he truly was.

There is also a cast of supporting characters, Hitler's niece Geli, her friend Eva as well as various members of the National Socialist Party, an English doctor who teaches Gretchen, none of these characters feel surplus to requirements as they can be in some books they all have their place, some of them are fictional and some are not, Anne has helpfully at the end o f the book put in a note about who and what these people where.

This was a gripping read and as well as being a great story I also found it was an educational experience, there was so much I didn't know about that period and this book has been a wealth of information!

I am also pleased that this is the start of a series and after the ending of this book - no I wont tell you what happened!! - the next book is set 1933 and I look forward to seeing what happens next in Gretchen Muller's life.

I have no hesitation in awarding this 5 out of 5




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