Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Saturday, April 12, 2014
Title: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Author: Anne Blankman
Genre: historical fiction
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #1
Pages: 416
Published: expected April 22, 2014
Source: publishers via edelweiss
Rating: 5/5

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.

"The worst thing we can do, the absolute worst, is to do nothing." - Franz Gerlich

It's easy to judge Adolf Hitler with the benefit of history on our side. But for Gretchen Muller in the 1930s, the man universally reviled decades after his death was simply a family friend, a substitute father for the real one who had martyred himself for the National Socialist Party. Over its 416 pages, Prisoner of Night and Fog excels at a lot of things -- crafting dimensional and realistic characters, creating plausible but meaningful conflicts for those two two main characters to encounter -- but its honest portrayal of a young girls rapid disillusionment with her uncle, with her countrymen, with her country is the most memorable and compelling. Similar to Code Name Verity for its moments of loveliness and moments of historical horror, Anne Blankman's pre-WWII debut is a must read.

YA novels wrestle a lot with "wo/man vs wo/man" type of narrative conflict, but not so here with Prisoner of Night and Fog. The plot becomes much more than a personal conflict with her father's murderer -- by standing up for her own beliefs, against Hitler, it's more "woman vs. society" type of story. Through her admittedly right, but dangerous actions, main character Gretchen finds herself with a loss of safety, and security; an outcast in her highly divided culture. It's hard to imagine a world where a street beating for religious/racial reasons is not only common but almost expected, but that was the world millions grew up with in the late 1930s/1940s. In light of the harsh views encouraged on all sides, Gretchen's small kindness seem all the starker. You root for Gretchen; you hope for her to see past her biases, to think for herself. She's constantly evolving and is ever proactive. I grew to think of her as the third member of Maddie and Verity's intrepid squad of heroines.

Research was obviously a large part of making Prisoner of Night and Fog into the success it will be. For anyone that has a passing interest in the era or in the man at the epicenter of everything, it's easy to tell the amount of time an effort Blankman went to for her debut novel. The best part is the author is skillfull enough to relay all that information without infodumping or halting the plot's progression. For a debut effort, it is remarkably seamless from beginning to end. The pacing is fluid, the plot is original and terrifying, the writing solid and occasionally lovely, and the characters will worm their way into your heart. The first in a series, the book manages to imbue the ending with resolution and finality while still leaving room for more story with (hopefully) these same characters.

This book affected me in a big way. I felt things for Gretchen, Daniel, Geli, and even Reinhardt. I raced through it, desperate to see how generous or Martin-esque this new author could be with her writing. Prisoner of Night and Fog isn't a pretty book, or a swoony book (though I loved the romance). It's a book designed to make you feel, to make you remember, to make you think --- and it succeeds on all counts. Blankman finds her story in the gray spaces between the real history of the effect of WWI and the Beer Hall Putsch on Herr Hitler, and her first novel is plausible, vividly rendered, and unforgettable.

1 comment:

  1. Okay, so admittedly I didn't read your review and only glanced at your rating because I'll be reading this soon but I hope to love it as much as you did!!!!!


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