Title: Prisoner of Night and Fog
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog, #1
Author: Anne Blankman
Published: Balzer + Bray, April 2014
Source: received a copy from publisher
Links: [goodreads][amazon.com][the book depository]
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.
Given the history we all know about the Nazis and the Jews in the 1930s, I knew it would be almost impossible for me to feel merry or lighthearted when I picked up and read Prisoner of Night and Fog. That didn’t mean I wouldn’t find the story enjoyable. The whole time while reading it, I was eager to learn more about the characters (both real people and fictional characters), the dismal situation they were in as well as the wobbly nature of the social dynamics in Germany. I wanted to find out why people chose to turn against one another when things could perhaps improve if they dropped their disagreement and I wanted to know why people were so desperate to believe in the evil gospel preached by a mad man. I liked that the fictional family of the Müllers lent us a way to see the society up close, giving us some idea of the probable cause of civil unrest as well as the pitiful nature of those who were in power.
In the story, the young Müllers, Reinhard and Gretchen, grew up believing that their father was the hero, the one who sacrificed himself to save Uncle Dolf (Hitler) in a riot. They, especially Gretchen, looked up to Uncle Dolf and they wouldn’t dare to disobey anything said by him. To everyone in the public, Gretchen was Dolf’s favorite pet, the perfect display to remind people why Hitler was a great leader – only a grateful man would adore and support the young ones of a dead comrade as his family, right?
I really enjoyed the premise and the setting of the story. Things were introduced a little at a time and I didn’t feel overwhelmed by a plethoric of details all at once. The personalities of the Müllers were quite distinct and I liked that the attitude of “women should listen to men” was brought up and examined. It was a relief to see that Gretchen was not as delicate as she seemed, and I liked that even when she was unsettled by many of the things happening, she still did her best to find out the truth about her father’s death.
To be honest, I didn’t care much about the romance in the story. Not that because it wasn’t sweet, but I was too engrossed by the tension going on among Gretchen, her family and Uncle Dolf that I almost skipped the romantic scenes just to get back to seeking out the secrets hidden by Dolf. For me, the most interesting part of the story was the character development of Gretchen. She could easily see herself as a victim but I liked that she chose a higher path to be a compassionate person who valued all living things with kindness. I also liked that she didn’t give in to apathy even when she had to face deaths one after another. My favorite scene was the one between her and her mother in the end – I think it was beautifully done – I was moved to tears when her mother pulled her in a hard embrace and then abruptly released her and walked away.
In the Author’s Note at the end of the book, I was thrilled to learn that there would be a sequel coming out in the future! I’ll definitely look forward to reading more work written by Blankman.