Author: Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Published: April 22nd 2014
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Format: Hardcover, 416 pgs
Source: Publisher for review
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.
For decades since the World War II, the name Adolf Hitler has been synonymous with monster all over the world. But to 17-year-old Gretchen Muller, Adolf Hitler is simply Uncle Dolf, protector, substitute father, a great leader and a kind, gentle man. If he wasn’t, why would Gretchen’s own father jump in front of a bullet to protect him? Why would this somewhat strange Austrian take Gretchen’s entire family under his wing?
We must keep in mind that Blankman portrays Germany in 1931, before the Third Reich, when Hitler’s intentions were still hidden behind clever rhetoric and only those closest to him had any inkling of the monster he truly was. Beatings and political assassinations were done covertly, and this young girl had nothing but the word of a trusted family friend to help form her opinion of the world.
The Gretchen we meet at the beginning of this story is a follower, a brainwashed creature, Hitler’s golden pet. Even though she wishes to become a doctor, she isn’t used to thinking for herself because, as Hitler likes to point out, a young girl’s brain is like wax, soft and pliable, ready to be shaped at any man’s will. But as things around her stop making sense and even her father’s heroic death comes into question, Gretchen has no choice but to discover the very dangerous truth and find her own independence in the process.
Through it all, she is accompanied by the most unlikely of allies, a young Jewish journalist named Daniel Cohen. All her life, Gretchen’s been taught that Jews are filthy, evil and subhuman, but there Daniel is, kind, smart, outspoken and entirely too pleasant to be anything but a real, warm human being, just like Gretchen herself. As the two form a very tentative friendship, Gretchen starts seeing the world through her own eyes for the very first time, and she is terrified of what she sees.
The Prisoner of Night and Fog is an extensively researched novel. In fact, not many novels come with an author’s note and a bibliography attached. Having done the research myself once upon a time, I am quite familiar with pre-WWII German history, and Anne Blankman did her job well. Everything from German educational system to the personalities of Hitler’s elite is accurate and well presented.
On top of it all, Blankman explores psychopathic personality disorder, not only through Hitler, but through Gretchen’s brother Reinhart as well. It is easy to see how people like Reinhart became The Fuhrer’s most trusted soldiers, following age-old rule that like calls to like.
Even those with superficial knowledge of the time period will easily recognize the impossibility of Gretchen’s situation, the slim chances of survival for her and Daniel both. It is almost impossible to see a satisfactory ending for these characters, knowing what we know of Hitler’s rise to power. Blankman counted on this feeling of dread that inevitably rises and used it to this story’s best advantage. The end result is one of the best books I’ve read in ages, with the potential to win both prizes and the hearts of readers everywhere.
A copy of this book was kindly provided by the publisher for review purposes. No considerations, monetary or otherwise, have influnced the opinions expressed in this review.