Prisoner of Night and Fog
by Anne Blankman
Read: April 2 - 9, 2014
Published: April 22, 2014 by Balzer + Bray
Source: Edelweiss (Thank you, HarperCollins!)
Category: YA, historical fiction, Hitler, Germany 1930s
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #1
Find: Goodreads | Amazon
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.
Prisoner of Night and Fog is exactly why I love historical fiction. The story fascinated me so much that I kept going online to look up the characters and time period while I was reading, because I wanted to learn more. In fact, all but a handful of the characters in this book were real people. But this story also completely frightened me. In many ways, it was scarier than reading a book categorized as horror, because this evil was real.
Prisoner of Night and Fog takes place in 1931 in Munich, Germany near the beginning of Hitler's conquest. And unlike most book villains, we know he won't be vanquished at the end of this story. It won't be for almost 15 more years before Hitler is defeated in 1945, and already his influence is trickling out in an increasingly wider arc. Germans struggling to survive after their WWI defeat are desperate for relief, and willing to believe whatever he tells them, including that Jews are to blame for their troubles. What's even scarier is how many people are able to ignore the details of his message, in favor of his promises.
Gretchen Müller's father fought with Adolf Hitler in the last war, only to become a hero when he died saving Hitler's life in an event that took place 8 years ago. Since then Gretchen and her mother and brother have been protected by the National Socialist Party (NAZI). Gretchen trust and admires Hitler, whom she calls "Uncle Dolf," and he dotes equally on her. She sees him as the savior of her family, and believes in his mission. That is until she meets Daniel Cohen, a reporter for an anti-NAZI newspaper and Jew. Daniel tells Gretchen that the events of her father's death may not be what they seem. Meeting Daniel, and then seeing other cracks in the world view she's always held, causes Gretchen to start questioning everything she's been taught to believe.
Even so, it takes Gretchen sometime to work her way out from Hitler's influence. It was tough to watch her struggle through that, especially watching from a future history perspective and knowing what many of these characters would become. But I felt sympathy for Gretchen from the beginning, and a whole lot of fear as she begins to drop the rose colored view of her life, and face what is really happening in her city. But I also very much came to admire her desire for truth and unwillingness to give up.
One of the elements in this book that both surprised me, and I very much enjoyed, was exploring the psychology of Hitler. Psychoanalysis was a big movement in the early 1930s and a lot of doctors tried to figure out Hitler's personality. Seeing him and other characters through this light was chilling. Apparently, Hitler surrounded himself at with a lot of people who were similar to him, and one of them was the second villain in this book, who was just as scary, and in some ways more dangerous to Gretchen.
The romance between Gretchen and Daniel is sweet. Although I wish we'd gotten to know Daniel a little better, I really liked him as a counter to Gretchen. He is self assured and determined to speak the truth. Through his example and the way he challenges her, Gretchen begins to make decisions about her own beliefs. The resolution/revelation of the mystery that Daniel and Gretchen set out to uncover wasn't a completely surprise, but the process by which Gretchen gets there made for a great story.
Prisoner of Night and Fog is part of a series, but thankfully, this book ends in a settled place. Even still, it's hard to feel peace for these characters, knowing the events they will have to weather in the future. But I know that neither Gretchen nor Daniel will stop fighting, and I can't wait for more of their story. The end of this book does give a sense of where the next one will begin, and it will continue to incorporate real events and people.
Love Triangle Factor: None
Cliffhanger Scale: Low - part of a series. Next book picks up at a specific point a bit later, which you will find out when you finish this one.