Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog- Anne Blankman

Published April 22nd 2014 by Balzer + Bray

Goodreads Synopsis

In 1930s Munich, danger lurks behind dark corners, and secrets are buried deep within the city. But Gretchen Müller, who grew up in the National Socialist Party under the wing of her "uncle" Dolf, has been shielded from that side of society ever since her father traded his life for Dolf's, and Gretchen is his favorite, his pet.

Uncle Dolf is none other than Adolf Hitler. And Gretchen follows his every command.

Until she meets a fearless and handsome young Jewish reporter named Daniel Cohen. Gretchen should despise Daniel, yet she can't stop herself from listening to his story: that her father, the adored Nazi martyr, was actually murdered by an unknown comrade. She also can't help the fierce attraction brewing between them, despite everything she's been taught to believe about Jews.

As Gretchen investigates the very people she's always considered friends, she must decide where her loyalties lie. Will she choose the safety of her former life as a Nazi darling, or will she dare to dig up the truth—even if it could get her and Daniel killed?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

My Review

I've always had a morbid fascination about wars- the reason behind such large scale destruction, the psychological effect of the huge losses, the inclination to fight for petty reasons and so on. So needless to say, any tidbit of info about WWII is considered a treat. 

I do not usually read war fiction as very few authors can actually capture all the grisly details with perfection. Exceptions always exist; Gone with the Wind is one mind blowing masterpiece which triumphs above all war fiction novels.

But as soon as I read the blurb for Prisoner of Night and Fog, I was completely hooked onto it. The idea of a novel based on romantic association between Hitler's pet and a Jew in Nazi Germany was too interesting to resist. What I loved best about the book was how the author has so ingeniously shaped her fictional characters around real ones. Anne Blankman has woven the story of a fictitious murder around two of the most devastating real events in Hitler’s life: Germany’s surrender while he was being treated for hysterical blindness and the Beer Hall Putsch. The fact that the story is set around the time before the actual Nazi regime began only heightens its appeal. 

It describes the story of Gretchen- Hitler's 'sunshine' and his saviour's beloved daughter- who discovers that everything she has been told about her father's death is a lie. That he had not voluntarily taken bullets to protect Hitler during the Putsch shootout, but had been murdered. She joins forces with an ambitious Jewish Reporter, Daniel Cohen and embarks on a quest to find the truth hidden under a blanket of cunningly woven lies. She realises that her beloved 'Uncle Dolf' might not be the affectionate caretaker he seems to be. She uncovers the macabre truth about his twisted mind, the fact that he is indeed a 'classic psychopath' and realises that this knowledge could mean doom for her family and herself.

The story might appear slow to some, and indeed in some places it was. But I think that was essential for the gradual thickening of the plot. In retrospect, the truth about Gretchen's father's demise was pretty obvious. But if I try to put myself in Gretchen's shoes, I think accepting the bitter truth about her father's murder and her Uncle's treachery would have been painfully difficult. Daniel was perhaps the only really likeable character in the entire book. He was moralistic, ambitious and headstrong. However, the ease with which he accepted Gretchen was downright weird, what with him being an outcast in the world created by her Uncle Dolf. 

The book was also frightening in some aspects. The revelation about Hitler's psychopathic tendencies gave me the heebie-jeebies, especially since this was before the time he started the holocaust. 

Overall, the book was an engrossing read. Highly recommended to lovers of historical fiction who have a preference for factual precision. 

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

About The Author:

Anne Blankman may have been meant to be a writer because her parents named her for Anne of Green Gables. She grew up in an old house with gables (gray, unfortunately) in upstate New York. When she wasn't writing or reading, she was rowing on the crew team, taking ballet lessons, fencing and swimming. She graduated from Union College with degrees in English and history, which comes in handy when she writes historical fiction.

After earning a master's degree in information science, Anne began working as a youth services librarian. Currently, she lives in southeastern Virginia with her family. When she's not writing young adult fiction, she's playing with her daughter, training for races with her husband, working at her amazing library branch, learning to knit (badly), and reading.

Anne Blankman is the author of PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG, the first in a three-book deal slated for publication in spring 2014 from Balzer + Bray | HarperCollins. She is represented by Tracey Adams of Adams Literary.

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