Prisoner of Night and Fog
by Anne Blankman
Expected Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Obtained Via: I received an advanced reader’s copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This is no way influenced my final opinion of the book.
Format Read In: E-ARC
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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.
Historical novels tend to be hit-or-miss with me. The ones I enjoyed I tend to really love, but it often takes me too long to get into a novel full of historical details. I can happily say Prisoner of Night and Fog is one of the best historical books I’ve ever read. The glimpse into WWII pre-Nazi Germany was frightening and compelling.
First, let me say how much I love the time Blankman decided to set Prisoner of Night and Fog. It takes place in a Germany in which Hitler is rapidly gaining political power, but not quite there yet. His victory seems all but decided, but at this point, there’s still a lingering of a question mark, a few other groups of people who could take power if luck fell for them the right way. The reader really gets to follow Hitler through Gretchen’s eyes. It must be difficult to write a figure as historical and as hated as Hitler in a realistic way, but Blankman accomplishes it beautifully. It’s easy to see how Gretchen can be so charmed by Hitler himself, this man who has doted on her family for years and has provided constant support, until Gretchen slowly unravels the truth surrounding her father’s death.
The addition of Gretchen’s brother was brilliant. Her brother is a textbook case of a psychopath(which, by the way, I feel the need to warn that this leads to some unpleasant things in the book). As Gretchen becomes afraid of Hitler, she begins to wonder if he is also a psychopath. But Gretchen’s brother and Hitler are not the same, and I loved the contrast Blankman set up. Yes, the Hitler Gretchen knows portrays many of the same signs as her brother. But there’s more subtlety in his character–he may not care, but he still feels loneliness, craves companionship, etc. Throughout Prisoner of Night and Fog, Gretchen continues to learn more about the man she thought she knew.
One of my favorite aspects of Prisoner of Night and Fog was the relationship between Gretchen and Daniel. Yes, at a point in the book it does become romantic, but even before that, I just love how they challenged each other to expand their perception of the world and country and what was truly going on. For most of the book, Daniel is the one giving Gretchen information, since he knows more due to his job as a reporter, but Gretchen definitely comes to be able to fend for herself. She does some stupid things and some fearless things, but her motive always tug at my heart–to figure out exactly how her dad died. Was he truly the Nazi martyr as she’s always been told? And the big push that Gretchen needs for that is to be introduced to Daniel.
The final thing that impressed me so much about Prisoner of Night and Fog was the level of historical detail. While Prisoner of Night and Fog is fiction, Blankman clearly worked within the parameters of history as closely as possible. Her author’s note at the end specified what was fact and what she added, and the attention to detail can be seen all the way through the novel. It never felt overwhelming, but it was clearly there. It felt like a story in Germany–the setting was so detailed and vivid. I’m such a character-driven reader that setting rarely matters too much to me, but this was just so impressive I could help but to notice.
It’s strange–when I think back on it, you would think Prisoner of Night and Fog would be a slow, character-driven story. While it’s definitely character driven, it never felt slow, even though the most important scenes were often the quiet ones–when Gretchen was talking to someone or simply observing. Despite this, though, I felt like I couldn’t put the book down. I needed to know what happened next.
I literally have nothing but praise to say for this debut historical novel. The attention to detail, the way the characters interact, and the story were so compelling I could not put this book down, even though it wasn’t an action-packed story. It completely captivated me and it is without a doubt one of my favorite historical novels I’ve ever read. 5/5 cupcakes.