Friday, March 21, 2014

Book Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog

Prisoner of Night and Fog
Published By: Balzer & Bray
Publication Date: April 22, 2014
Page Count: 416
Source: ARC Kindly Provided by Publisher via NetGalley
Audience: Young Adult - Historical Fiction

Most of us know the story of WWII era Hitler and his atrocities, but many of us have never studied his rise to power. I knew a bit about it from my history courses in college, but it wasn't something I studied extensively. I wanted to know more about how the people of Germany could possibly allow the Holocaust to happen. It baffles me. When I first heard about this novel and realized that it would focus on Hitler's rise to power, I decided to give it a try. Prisoner of Night and Fog is a well written novel full of rich historical details, forbidden romance, and an intriguing mystery.

The main character, Gretchen, had my support from the first chapter. She is one of the Germans who doesn't quite understand why Hitler is choosing to target the Jews, but she begins to have doubts about his agenda. She battles between what she has been taught and what she knows to be true. Its always interesting to read about a character who is finding out that everything they thought to be true is nothing but a lie.  Questioning the adults who are supposed to love and care about you isn't an easy feat. Gretchen's entire world view changes when she learns that her father may not have died a hero, but rather he might have been murdered. In addition, she forms a friendship with a handsome, Jewish reporter who shows her that regardless of ethnicity, the two have more in common than she could have ever imagined. Gretchen's character growth is amazing to watch; I was awed by her courage.

I was hoping that Gretchen would begin to realize the hideous nature of what was happening in the National Socialist Party. In the beginning of the novel, Gretchen sees Hitler as a beloved family friend who has her respect and affection. This shifts over time as Gretchen begins to form her own opinions. She has an epiphany at one point that spoke volumes:

She considered the boy beside her. A breeze had kicked up, ruffling the brown strands that had escaped from the newsboy cap he was wearing today and hung over his forehead. His clear, dark eyes met hers without hesitation, as though he had nothing to hide. He was nothing like the monster she had been taught about. Her was human.

Once the thought would have terrified her. Now she felt it lifting her heart up, back to where it belonged (Kindle Location 2029).

In addition to the historical elements, I was also drawn in by the family dynamic. Gretchen's relationship with her father is one that is colored by hope and nostalgia, but since his death things haven't been all sunshine and roses. Gretchen's older brother, Reinhard, has some serious issues. He's cruel and brutal to everyone, but his wrath often falls upon Gretchen's shoulders. I hated watching Reinhard mistreat Gretchen; it was heartbreaking and infuriating. I was also saddened that Gretchen's mother doesn't stand up for her daughter. I'm sure the mother's actions were colored by fear, but I also felt like she gave Reinhard too much freedom. Reinhard is a character who will haunt my nightmares; he truly freaked me out.

Furthermore, Eva Braun is a prominent character in this one as well. It was interesting to learn about her as a girl rather than as Hitler's companion.

I was impressed with Blankman's ability to put a new spin on a story that is familiar to so many. Yes, she focuses on the time span prior to WWII, but the discrimination towards Jews is already prevalent. Hitler has even begun to discuss his plans for extermination. The characters become symbols for those living in Germany: some of them support Hitler's ideals and visions, others begin to question Hitler, and then there are the Jews. 

Reading Prisoner of Night and Fog also made me stop to ponder what would have happened if the Treaty of Versailles had gone differently in 1919. Nations bent on revenge decided that Germany should be severely punished for their actions in The Great War. I understand, but at the same time, the need for revenge caused such an economic downturn in Germany that it allowed someone like Hitler to rise to power. Inflation soared during the post-WWI era and many could not feed their families. In desperate times, people often resort to desperate measures. I am in no way excusing the actions of Hitler and the Nazis, but I do wonder how things would have happened if the European nations had devised a different plan for Germany after WWI. Could we have prevented the Holocaust if diplomacy had taken a different path? I suppose we'll never know.

I am excited to see such strong historical fiction hitting the YA market. I can't wait to see where this series will head next.



One Last Gripe: I don't have one this time.

My Favorite Thing About The Book: I enjoyed learning more about the time period between WWI and WWII.

First Sentence: Gretchen Muller peered through the car's rain-spotted windshield.

Favorite Character: Gretchen

Least Favorite Character: Reinhard



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.



16 comments:

  1. I'm very much excited about this book, and reading your review makes me even more excited to read it!

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    1. I'm glad to hear that! I hope you love it as much as I did.

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  2. Yes, it's awesome to read this book about that time in history, and Reinhard was painful to read, right? Great book. I hope to read the next novel in the future.

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    1. Reinhard was painful to read. He gave me the chills. I'm excited to read the next book too.

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  3. LOVE how the book is both educational in terms of history but also very character driven and coming of age, with how the main character makes up her own mind, falls in love, sees the truth about what's going on politically and in terms of religion.

    Lovely review :)

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    1. I agree with your comments. I'm also super excited because I was able to get an ARC of book #2. I can't wait to dive into it.

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  4. Reinhard must have truly been terrible to have made it on your least favorite character. But OMG! I still need to read this one! And I love that cover! I like how beautifully dark it is and it almost seems that what Gretchen see's has created fear in her eyes. I really need to pick up this book soon and see why it's such a strong story to read. Especially when it's a YA story. :)

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    1. It's one of the most powerful YA novels I have read in some time. It's haunting and beautifully written.

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  5. I am such a huge fan of any historical fiction so im sure i'll enjoy this!

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    1. It's a must for historical fiction fans - especially those interested in WWII.

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  6. I enjoy historical novels, especially if they are grounded in what really happened. Sounds like one interesting narrative.

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    1. I did some research after reading this one. A lot of the people and events are historically accurate, but the author does put her own spin on things. Even when she deviates from the historical record, it's authentic.

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  7. I adore historical fiction. This is a must read

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    1. It's so so good. You won't regret it.

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  8. I love historical fiction that takes place during the WW1 & WW2 time period

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  9. I have been wanting to read this one for a long time. I find historical fiction especially during this time period so interesting! Thanks for the wonderful review!! :)

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