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.
Tell Me More: Sympathy for 1945 Germany may be a stretch for many people. History books and documentaries focus on the horrors committed by the Nazis, and understandably so. But in Prisoner of Night and Fog, Anne Blankman asks readers to see the rise of Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany through the eyes of a young girl, and it’s the kind of the story worth reading alongside history books.
Gretchen does not start as a sympathetic character. On my first read, I actually found her a difficult character to understand, because she didn’t seem to care or be attached to anything. The second time around was easier, and much of the story also takes on new layers in a reread. She isn’t worldly or street-smart, relying on what she’s told to consider right versus wrong. There is nothing wrong with that, of course, but it does later highlight how she begins to grow up. This isn’t a book about Hitler, but his presence does weigh heavily on Gretchen’s life, and it’s his actions in the past that drive Gretchen’s search for the truth about her father. What she does learn doesn’t have to change her life, and indeed, she chooses to ignore the truth at first. But Gretchen is stronger than that, and while I initially found her back-and-forth frustrating, it makes sense for her character’s eventual growth.
While the book is still written for a young audience, Blankman doesn’t shy away from illustrating the horrors of the Nazi Party. Hitler’s benevolent behaviour isn’t quite enough to mask his ruthlessness, and even Gretchen is uncomfortable with him at times before she discovers the truth. The story asks both Gretchen and the reader to examine the idea of trust and loyalty to people and one’s country, without overwhelming them with philosophical questions.
The Final Say: Anne Blankman’s debut novel is a stark look at a girl growing up in the midst of shadows, and her choice to turn on the light to face them. Prisoner of Night and Fog will give readers an excellent and rarely seen perspective of the country and events that changed the world stage forever.
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.
Categories: Book Reviews