Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman (3.5/5)

Tuesday 9 December 2014
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?

Having heard a lot about this book from fellow bloggers, and missing it on bookbridgr first time round, I didn't hesitate to request once it became available again. In school I was fascinated with the war, and whenever my teacher would ask us to write a story, the ones I remember vividly are about the war, and evacuation. It's also something I still read about now, in the form of 'family sagas', books your Nan probably reads but which underneath all the romance are full of history, stories of real people and communities pulling together. I haven't however read a book like this before, fiction blended with fact nor in this setting. My interest was certainly piqued from the blurb. It's a Young Adult novel and all I can say is that despite being a reader growing up, I don't remember books back then being as exciting and inventive as they are now, young readers today have so many good books to choose from. Perhaps I was just looking in the wrong places...

How best to describe it? I think the blurb does it pretty well. Munich in the 1930s. Gretchen Müller grew up in the National Socialist Party, under the care of her uncle Dolf, her father traded his life for Dolf's. Who is 'Dolf'? Adolf Hitler. Like many people at that time, Gretchen takes his word as gospel, and follows his every command. Then she meets a reporter by the name of Daniel Cohen, a Jewish reporter. Learning some shocking secrets about her father's death, and battling with an attraction towards Daniel, Gretchen's life is soon in disarray as she must decide which side she truly wants to be on. On paper then it could just look like another YA novel, girl meets boy from the 'other' side and must fight her attraction, yet she fails and they end up together etc etc but really, this is so much more than another predictable love story.

It's when you are reading a book and the characters and stories feel like real people that you know a book is special. It's not just words on a page, and these aren't just characters that leave your mind when you put the book down. You will think of them when you aren't reading, right up until you can hold the sequel in your hands. It's an obviously well researched novel, which gives the book the authenticity that it just wouldn't have was that not the case. And a story such as this can only be told by someone that has carried out that painstaking research. As a reader and as a person I had no trouble rooting for Gretchen and Daniel, both realistically believable characters my head was all over the place as they find their worlds turned upside down. If any readers are put off by the historical element, Hitler, anything like that, put those worries to one side and take a chance on this book, I can almost guarantee you won't regret it. 

Overall then I have no trouble recommending this book, it's a hard one to stop reading once you get started. Maybe because it wasn't an adult novel it felt a bit short, or lacking to me but otherwise it was a really enjoyable and thought provoking read. This is a book that could easily be read and discussed in schools. It would make for a great discussion in English, or even History and would get people talking in a more exciting way than perhaps reading out of a textbook does. It's certainly a new and interesting take on the era, and it's definitely a book that will get people talking. Oh, and the UK cover is so much better than the US one. Also, early reviews are in for book two, Conspiracy of Blood and Smoke and it sounds amazing.

Thanks to Headline for the review copy via bookbridgr. 

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