This book came out just about a month ago, and I picked it up because I was interested in a historical novel from the perspective the Nazis during WWII. I love reading WWII novels in general, but usually it’s from one of the allied perspectives (like American, British, or French). So I was happy to see this one and give it a chance. And I’m glad I did, because even if this book is intimidating because of its length, it was also incredibly interesting.
Release: May 12, 2020
Page Count: 560 pages
Synopsis: Hetty Heinrich is the daughter of a high-ranking Nazi officer, with great love for her country and loyalty to Hitler. However, when an old Jewish friend returns into her life, she finds her perspectives shifting as the world goes closer towards war.
I really enjoyed this book, and it was not as much for the story or the characters as it was the ideology it examines. It takes a look at the average German belief in the 1930’s, how Hitler was their savior and going to bring Germany to a better place. The book starts in the nearly 30’s and ends just as the war begins in 1939. Hetty was an interesting character, as she grew up in Nazi German and, as the book progressed, I loved seeing her beliefs about the world and right and wrong develop. Many of the background characters are frustrating, though it does show that a person is never stagnant, we are either working to be good or devolving towards evil. A lot of the characters, like her parents, had a character journey opposite to Hetty’s, which shows parallels that felt really real. However, without giving spoilers, don’t go into this book expecting it to be happy. It is at times cruel and very sad.
It was not, however, perfect. There were quick a few scenes which didn’t need to exist, and I honestly felt this book could have been 400 or less pages instead of over 500. There were times I was super absorbed in the story and whizzed through it, and other times I found myself getting bored quickly.
The romance itself between Hetty and the Jewish young man Walter didn’t interest me that much. Yes, I was interested in seeing Walter shift Hetty’s perspective, but the romance itself wasn’t that interesting to me. It was sweet and surrounded by the darkness of Germany, but that’s about it. I never felt a deeper connection between the two, though considering at the end of the book Hetty was like eighteen, it seems sense how youthful the romance felt.
My favorite part of the book by far was the historical context. There was this shift in schools and propaganda seen from Hetty’s perspective, and the anti-Jewish sentiment rising slowly. Even if at times it is hard to read, I think it’s important to understand how evil can seep its way into a perfectly fine society and pollute it without people even realizing it.
The last thing I wanted to talk about was the ending, but big SPOILERS for the next paragraph!
The ending is a bit bittersweet. There is a short epilogue taking place in the 90’s at the end. Walter escapes Germany for England, though his family mostly perishes in the concentration camps. Hetty gives birth to his child afterwards and is able to send it out of the country to Walter and his new wife. Most of her friends, family, and husband die during the war. Years later, she writes to find her child Stanley, only to be able to meet him but learn that Walter is dead, even though he never stopped looking for her. It’s a partially sad ending, and yet it could have been so much worse.
In the end, this may be one of my favorite books published this year that I read so far, mostly for the unique look at German culture during the time and the perfect balance between sadness and hope.
Have you heard of this book or read it? Does it look interesting to you? Let me know your thoughts down in the comments, follow my blog for more musings and, as always,
Best wishes in your life full of adventure,