Nothing is more enjoyable than educating a young thing – a girl of eighteen or twenty, as pliable as wax. -Adolf Hitler
Our tale opens with this chilling quote from one of the most infamous political leaders ever to win the hearts of a people with dangerously velvet words and a devious and murderous intent. Prisoner of Night and Fog has been a book that I was waiting for anxiously. After reading Danielle Steele’s Echoes (and blubbering like a child), I fell in love with historical fiction, especially those set in World War II. What I thought was particularly unique about this book was that our protagonist, Gretchen, starts off as a supporter of the Nazi party. So often stories involving World War II in Germany and the countries it affected are taken from the perspective of the Jews.This was one of the first that really intrigued me about this book, and I think it really sets this book after from other World War II fiction.
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 book cover didn’t blow me away, but the title did: Prisoner of Night and Fog – such a lovely and slightly haunting title. To think that one could be held captive against something so insubstantial, something you can’t even hold in your hand is a compelling thought. But Blankman explains the title in her author’s note as derived from, “the infamous “Night and Fog” decree of 1941…In essence, Nazis could spirit away their enemies into “the night and the fog”.
Gretchen was a solid character for me. She was likeable and smart – if, naive and overly trusting, but that’s necessary for the premise of the book. I didn’t develop a strong connection to her, but I really admire her. She shows guts and a determination not to betray herself, which I wholeheartedly approve of. Daniel, I also liked. I wish there could have been more personal dialogue between the two of them, something that was their own, outside of her father’s murder case and Hitler’s political agenda. But, Gretchen was reared to have a deep-seated revulsion of Daniel’s kind, so it can’t truly be expected that they could so easily transverse those upbringings in one book. I’m looking forward to the sequel to see how they grow independently and together, and I am delighted that the sequel (so far!) shows no signs of them being separated or quarrelling.
I think what sold the book in this case, was Hitler. Taking this story from within his circle, within those who have the same political beliefs as him, both overt and covert meant that we observed the ugly side. It was both terrifying and captivating to see how thoroughly Hitler wove his beliefs into the minds and hearts of others so that they became truths. At times, it was hard to read the hate-filled thoughts towards Jews, but I told myself: you must. You must because this is how we learn. Reading does this incredible thing whereby we get to see into the minds of people – people who, though fictional, reflect the very real people who live in our world today. I forced myself to read the parts that twisted my heart because remembering that hate is how we learn to rise above it. This is the most precious thing that Prisoner of Night and Fog and Anne Blankman does.
Blankman does an exceptional job of forging the pleasures of fictional reading with historical fact and life lesson. This is a book that kept me captive and will remain prisoner to my heart for years to come.