Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

PrisonerPublished by: Hachette Australia
ISBN 13: 9781472207821
Published: June 2014
Pages: 352
Format reviewed: eVersion from NetGalley
Site: Author Site
Goodreads: Book Page
Stars: Four out of Five
Lists: Recommended

‘Prisoner of Night and Fog’ by Anne Blankman is set in the 1930s in Munich, just after World War I (then called The Great War) when Germany is in turmoil. Gretchen Müller is a young adult, and a proud member of the National Socialist Party along with the rest of her family. Times are hard, but she is confident that a close family friend will look after them. He’s always been important to them, since the war. Especially since her own father saved the man’s life, by jumping in front of bullets meant for him. Gretchen, his favourite girl – his sunshine – calls him Uncle Dolf. Others call him Adolf Hitler.

Though life is hard and there is something distressing about her brother, Gretchen is willing and able to do whatever is asked of her – help her mother run a boarding house, be active socially and a good representation for the NSP – that is, until, someone whispers to her that her father was murdered by a comrade. He is known as the adored Nazi martyr, leaping before the Führer to protect his body with his own. Then why was there a bullet wound in his back, with powder burns to show close contact?

The fact that the news is coming from a Jew sickens her, but Gretchen becomes obsessed with finding out what truly happened, even if it means discovering ugly truths about those she considered friends. What if it begins to twist loyalties, though? How far can she go on this path, and how can she choose between discovering the truth about her beloved father if it means also discovering truths about her beloved Führer?

In this fast-paced historical fiction, we see what Germany was like at the time and how desperate things became. We see another side to Hitler, with how he liked to draw, eat simple foods, and gave insightful and philosophical encouragement to those who surrounded him.

This is a hard novel to read in parts for obvious reasons. It is brutal from start to finish, and unfortunately shows cruelty to animals which can be hard or impossible for some readers to cope with. I skimmed past it – it’s pretty clear that it’s going to happen and when – and then got back into the novel once it was done. It’s well used in the plot and not superfluous, but I still had to go sit and play with my animals to calm down afterwards. It’s such a horrible thing to contemplate.

The characters throughout are interesting, and a product of the time. We see Gretchen in a realistic light, though of course she is slightly adventurous and daring in order for the novel to happen. Her friends are interesting and fill the space well. Her family are devastatingly real, and the members of the Socialist Party (both real and fictional) are scarily realistic.

This is somehow a quick read, despite being 350 pages. There is a romance, but it wasn’t one I felt overly strongly which could have simply been my mood – it didn’t annoy or take me out of the novel, it simply wasn’t what I was focusing on while reading.

There seems like there shall be a sequel and perhaps I’ll focus more on it then.

This book is highly recommended for those who love Elizabeth Wein.


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