Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Release: April 22, 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.There are a few things that come to mind when I hear the term "World War II novel." I think of oppressed masses, spies and military members taking thrilling risks, and twisted dictators wielding their sadistic power. I do not think of protagonists who believe the brainwashing lies spread by corrupt politicians or incipient tyrannies still plotting their plans for domination. However, Prisoner of Night and Fog challenges these automatic assumptions. With its original point of view that elaborates on everything I do not expect to see, it tells a story unlike any other World War II book I have ever read.
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.
As soon as I started reading Prisoner of Night and Fog, its standout hook—the fact that its main character starts out supporting Hitler—pulled me in. Defying all of readers' expectations, the exposition does not treat the dictator as an enemy, but as a friend. Anne Blankman takes readers inside Gretchen's head and shows her protagonist's deeply-bred beliefs, creating a fascinating point of view that startled my familiarity with Hitler-hating characters. Once I wrapped my mind around the idea that Gretchen actually believed Jews to be sub-human, I loved watching her come to her senses. Gretchen's journey will make readers livid at those who shaped her beliefs, but ultimately it will make them smile as she starts to overcome her cruel thoughts and stand up to "Uncle Dolf."
Equally fascinating is this book's time frame; it takes place before World War II and before Hitler reaches the height of his power. By focusing on a not-yet-omnipotent dictator, Blankman gives herself room to explore the ruler's mental instability and tactics for controlling a country. While this angle takes away the widespread pain and suffering I usually see in a World War II novel, I barely missed the horrifyingly captivating aspect. Readers with any interest in the inner workings of the mind will appreciate the psychological side of Prisoner of Night and Fog enough to overlook the depleted opportunities for heartbreaking scenes.
To top off all its uniqueness, Prisoner of Night and Fog excels in two aspects that can make any novel soar—choking suspense and stunning writing. Desperate to find out the truth behind all the mysteries clouding Gretchen's life, I yearned to turn this novel's pages at rapid speed. The writing, however, slowed me down because I wanted to savor each subtly descriptive image. I plan to remember both of these elements just as vividly as the strengths specific to the story.
After reading such a superb novel, I can only imagine the amount of effort Blankman put into researching her facts, planning her plot, and wording her imagery in order to make it possible. Her historical fiction educates in an enthralling and addictive way that results from heaps of research and writing ability. I am so thankful she put in the impressive amount of work that she did, and I cannot wait to see where her talents take her next.