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.
Hardcover, 401 pagesPublished April 22nd 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Four and a Half Stars: A gripping, well researched historical fiction novel that gives you a glimpse at the monster before he rose to power.
Young Gretchen Müller is eager to reach the restaurant where she is meeting her Uncle Dolf for tea and scones. Gretchen always enjoys seeing Uncle Dolf as she has spent her life as his cherished, golden pet. Things take a dark turn when her brother swerves the car to hit a Jewish man walking home. He misses, but that doesn't stop him from jumping out and cornering the man in the alley. Gretchen hastily hurries to stop him because she knows Uncle Dolf will be furious with him for fighting. As she approaches, Gretchen sees something other than a subhuman Jew cowering in the darkness, beaten and bloodied. Instead she sees a fellow human in pain. Afterwards, Gretchen meets a stranger in the darkness who tells her he has valuable information regarding her father's death. From this point on, Gretchen begins to question everything she has known and been taught. Until she wonders if the kindly man she sees as an Uncle is a monster. Will Gretchen survive?
What I Liked:
- Ms. Blankman's brilliantly researched debut novel,A Prisoner of Night and Fog, delivers a chilling tale of a man who would rise to become one of the most brutal monsters history has ever known, told through the eyes of a naive girl. I was most impressed with this novel as it delivers a powerful and memorable story while providing a glimpse at a man who would forever alter the world. If you are wanting to learn more about Hitler's rise to power and pre World War II Germany, I urge you to pick up this book. Even though the main characters are fictional, the rest of the tale is for the most part historically accurate. Don't miss this one.
- Gretchen is a fascinating character. As a young, seventeen year old girl with blonde hair and blue eyes, she is a poster child for Hitler's prized Aryan youth. Gretchen's father died a martyr, shielding Hitler's body with is own, absorbing the bullets meant for Hitler. Since then, Gretchen has been under Hitler's wing. She is a golden girl, molded like pliable wax into a girl who believes his rhetoric, a girl who believes Jews are filthy monsters. As the novel progresses, Gretchen digs deep to uncover the truth about her father's death, aided by an unlikely ally, Daniel Cohen, a Jewish reporter. I loved watching Gretchen's journey as her blinders slowly fell away. I especially liked seeing her drop the horrible prejudices brainwashed into her head by Hitler. By the end, she is a changed girl, who accepts a terrifying truth about her Uncle.
- I admired Daniel. As a young Jewish reporter in a city that was growing more and more intolerant by the day toward Jews, he still remained wanting to expose the truth about Hitler in the papers. I especially liked the way he reached out to Gretchen and helped her overcome her prejudices. He is brave and heroic, like so many Jews who fought for what was right, often to their deaths, in this terrifying time.
- This book takes place in 1931, before Hitler ascended to power. I liked that you get to see Hitler before he was a tyrant. In this book, he is presented sometimes as a kind, caring, father figure, while at others, there are shades of the man he would become. Having hindsight, it was terrifying to see this man put on so many masks. Ms. Blankman's presentation of Hitler is well researched and accurate. I was intrigued and chilled at the same time as I learned more about the man who became a monster.
- I appreciated the inclusion of some psychology and psychoanalysis. There are in depth discussions on psychopaths and their personality traits. Ms. Blankman goes so far as to include historical information about Hitler early on when he was diagnosed a hysterical and a psychopath. However, Hitler proved time and time again that he was not only capable of escaping death, but he was difficult to correctly label. While he displayed characteristics of a psychopath, he had other traits that fell completely outside the typical signs of a psychopath. In the end, Hitler proves to be just as enigmatic and terrifying today as he was back then. I especially appreciated the author's note at the end where Ms Blankman discusses her research on Hitler and she establishes the truth from the fiction.
- The book builds to a fast and furious conclusion that is terrifying. It ends neatly without a cliffhanger, though the reader is well aware that there is far more story to tell. I am most eager to dive into the second book. After the conclusion, there is an author's note that delivers all the facts and information about the real life events in the book. Do not miss the author's note.
And The Not So Much:
- A big portion of the novel is spent uncovering the truth about Gretchen's father's death. Gretchen and Daniel manage to dig and dig and interview several eyewitnesses. I was left wondering why there wasn't more information regarding Amann? I kept thinking Gretchen would meet him, but he remains a mystery.
- Gretchen's mother is a frustrating character. I never felt like I had a complete grasp on her character. Why was she so cowed? Was it all because of Reinhard or was there more to it? I wanted to know more about her relationship with Reinhard. How did Hitler treat her? Her relationship with Hitler is not discussed in depth either.
- The romance was a tiny bit disappointing. While I liked watching the friendship form, I felt like it lacked a bit of chemistry or emotion. It didn't sweep me off my feet and make me feel. I think because it progressed too rapidly. Not a big issue, just a niggling point for me.
Prisoner of Night and Fog is a thrilling and chilling peek back in time to an era before Hitler rose to power. See him as he sows the seeds for the Holocaust, through the eyes of an innocent girl. I highly recommend this book. It is well researched and as historically accurate as possible. A must read for anyone who has an interest in World War II, Hitler and the Holocaust. I was most impressed with Ms. Blankman's debut, and I will eagerly be picking up her next book.
I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was no compensated for this review.