Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #1
Published by Balzer + Bray, HarperCollins on April 22, 2014
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
Genres: Historical, Young Adult
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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.
I’ve never really been interested in Nazi Germany or Hitler, while tragic and disturbing, I’ve always found the time period to be kind of boring. When Prisoner of Night and Fog came up for review, I thought this would be my chance to find out if the book could interesting the pessimist in me about the historical period. And it did, through the eyes of a relatable, strong heroine who discovers the truth about Hitler, also affectionately known in the novel as Uncle Dolf.
Seeing Hitler up close and in person was creepy and intriguing, especially from Gretchen’s perspective as his doting, naive golden girl. Her admiration and respect for her Uncle Dolf is eerie, as we all know the truth behind his rise to power. What freaked me out though was seeing Hitler’s charismatic, compelling side, his difficulty to emphasise and his care and adoration for Gretchen. This is a man who is a sociopath and it slowly leaks out throughout the novel.
Gretchen is an inquisitive, smart, defiant and brave young girl who grows into a smart strong woman, even in a male dominated environment. When Gretchen witnesses her brothers’ violent beating of a Jew, she can’t quite convince herself to believe the prejudice against them. There is an underlying theme of mystery and suspense threaded throughout the book as Gretchen wises up to what Hitler is really up to and conducts research on his actual agenda – to exterminate Jews.
The man she had loved as a father was a fraud. He kissed the backs of her hands and advocated war; he ruffled her hair and preached death; he had played with her on the carpet with toy soldiers, and all along he had been planning the extinction of an entire people.
Nothing seems to happen in the bulk of novel though, with an event where Gretchen is abused by her maniacal brother Reinhard seeming to underpin most of the plot. It moves at a super slow pace as half of the novel seems to focus on this one event. I found myself bored at times, wishing there was more to keep me going about a time period I wasn’t excited about. Thankfully there’s a sort of forbidden romance between Gretchen and Daniel Cohen, a young Jewish reporter who takes her in when no one else does. Daniel is a sweet enough boy, but it was kind of unbelievable seeing Gretchen go from one extreme to the other, believing everything he says about Hitler who has been her father figure for most of her life.
Prisoner of Night and Fog is rich and exquisite in history, with the surge of the Nazi rise to power and the segregation between the Jews felt loud and clear. Reading the author’s final notes with a full bibliography, I am impressed by the amount of research and historical accuracies featured within the novel.
For someone whose eyes glaze over whenever I hear the words Hitler or Nazis, Prisoner of Night and Fog does manage to make the historical period more relatable and interesting for readers. I enjoyed reading Anne Blankman’s take on Hitler and discovering that many events and people within the novel were real, so at least I can say I know more about Hitler now. The novel was atmospheric, rich in history and written really well. My rating reflects my apathy towards the setting though, why read about a subject I don’t really enjoy?
Rating: 3 out of 5
I received this book on Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.