Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
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?
My heart is still pounding from reading Prisoner of Night and Fog. The last 200 pages of the book are non-stop suspense and action scenes. The book starts off much slower, as Gretchen searches for answers regarding her father's death and the lies her Uncle Dolf has been feeding her for her entire life. Blankman does not excel at writing mystery; half the time Gretchen would talk to a witness, who would tell her something she already knew or had figured out, and then treat it as a huge revelation. Since the majority of the book revolves around her father's death and supposed martyrdom, a good portion of the book was kind of annoying to read. Not that the murder mystery wasn't interesting, it was, it just wasn't presented very well. Blankman repeated herself too many times; if you want an example, look on pages 119 and 261; almost an entire paragraph is repeated (I won't type it here because of spoilers).
If I disliked the beginning so much, why in the world would I give Prisoner of Night and Fog four stars? Because even though the mystery wasn't amazing, the writing was solid and everything else going on was marvelous. Most books about Hitler's Germany take place during WWII, and feature Hitler as a distant, cruel power. In Blankman's book, Hitler is featured as a character with much more depth - and it's terrifying. Blankman resurrects Hitler through her story, showing him not as a figure in a textbook but as an ordinary human. Just, you know, an ordinary human who manipulated his country into killing millions of Jewish people and feeling righteous about it. The parallels between Hitler and Gretchen's brother, Reinhard, were frightening and added even more depth. It was both interesting and horrifying to read about Hitler's rise to power, and Blankman depicts pre-WWII Germany without sparing any greusome details.
Besides the unique aspect of having Hitler as a character, Prisoner of Night and Fog also has the best case of character development I've read recently. At first, I couldn't really connect with Gretchen - not while she was talking about the "Jewish infection". As she changed throughout the book, I found myself liking her more and more. The way she transformed from the brainwashed Nazi sweetheart into a kind girl who could think for herself was exceptionally realistic. So was the relationship between her and Daniel; strained at first and eventually loving and unmarred by hate. I really loved that bit.
The book, like Gretchen, got better as the story progressed. If you're willing to stick with it through a bit of a slow beginning, Prisoner of Night and Fog is an excellent read. One of the blurbs on the back cover mentions a sequel, but it could easily be a stand-alone if you don't want to start a series. I highly recommend this book for fans of the WWII genre, historical fiction, and anyone looking for a thrilling summer read.
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As a longtime lover of stories and a believer in the power and magic of books, I've spent my life seeking out the best reads. This blog is dedicated to reviewing the books I read - good, bad, or magnificent - to help other readers find their next favorite books.