April 19, 2014

Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog + an Interview

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Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Grade: A-
Release date: April 22, 2014
This ARC was provided by Edelweiss and Balzar + Bray in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: 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?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Holy cheese and crackers, everyone, this book... As I write this review, I'm still suffering from the book hangover it gave me.  It is easily one of the best historical fiction novels I've ever read.  Gretchen is an amazing character.  She practically thinks "Uncle Dolf" hung the moon, which I found interesting and disturbing all at once.  The characterization of most everyone was downright amazing.  It was creepy to see Adolf Hitler through adoring eyes, particularly since we all know what he turned out to be.  I loved the psychoanalytics and how they played into the plot line as Gretchen learned and realized what "Uncle Dolf" and her brother really were.  I loved the setting and how it just felt so real.  Nothing is overly descriptive, but I felt like I was in 1930s Munich.  It was good to see real characters woven into the plot, like Geli and Eva, along with Hitler's henchmen (best way to describe them).  I had just read up a bit on Adolf Hitler before starting this book, so I worried where things with Geli would go.  I won't spoil anything, but Anne keeps it historically accurate and I commend her for that.  I've always known Hitler was spine-chilling and downright disturbing, but as Gretchen started to discover his true colors, so did I.  I learned the more intimate details of what made him so psychopathic and creepy.  I think that's a sign of a good author, that I was able to rediscover this real life villain.
One of the few things I didn't like was how quickly Gretchen seemed to accept the Jewish people.  Obviously we all know they aren't the threat that Hitler claimed they were, but Gretchen had been taught for many years how horrible they were and she seemed to too readily believe Daniel and become a Jewish supporter.  Additionally, one of the major parts of the plot is Gretchen solving the mystery of who murdered her father.  I saw the reveal coming just a bit and anticipated who it would be, but I think anyone really could.
Language and romance were fairly clean.  Violence was the worst.  It wasn't as bad as it is in Rose Under Fire or other books that tell the horrors of concentration camps, but it could definitely be graphic at times.

The Verdict: I already want the sequel.  At the end of the author's note, Anne said, "I'll meet you again in 1933, five weeks after a certain Austrian politician has been named Germany's newest chancellor..."  Basically, I'm already making grabby hands for book 2, and it's not even listed on Goodreads yet!  But that tells you just how amazing Prisoner of Night and Fog is.  Not one minute is dull, as I've often found historical fiction can be, and you'll be on the edge of your seat, hoping Gretchen and Co. will make it out alive.


I also had the honor of interviewing Anne Blankman.  She had some great answers, including one that made me laugh aloud.

Emma: What particularly inspired you to write PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG?
Anne: The idea for this story came to me after I learned about Geli Raubal, Hitler's beloved half niece who shared his Munich apartment. I couldn't stop wondering what it must have been like to be a young girl growing up within the Nazi elite's inner circle--and if it would have been possible to break free from it. I needed the freedom of a fictional main character, though, so Gretchen Müller was born (although I should add that Geli is a character, too!).


Emma: Were there any scenes that you wish could've been included but had to be cut?
Anne: Oooh, what a great question! Happily for me, all of the scenes made it into the final version. But I did uncover tons of fascinating historical details that I couldn't include for a variety of reasons--sometimes they were things Gretchen wouldn't know or they occurred after PRISONER's timeframe. For example, in the book Gretchen and Geli visit Haus Wachenfeld, Hitler's mountain retreat. Gretchen has been told that Hitler purchased the home with royalties from his autobiography, Mein Kampf.  The truth? He probably bought it with donations from wealthy Nazi supporters. Incidentally, the Haus Wachenfeld was later renovated and renamed the Berghof. It was one of Hitler's primary residences during the war and was razed by Allied forces to prevent it from becoming a Nazi shrine.

Emma: What was your favorite bit of research you found while writing this book?
Anne: The reason Hitler sported such a tiny mustache is because he thought it made his nostrils look smaller. For real. Apparently he was very self-conscious about them!

Emma: I loved the last bit of your Author's Note in my e-galley, when you said where you'd "meet us next."  What can you tell us about PRISONER's sequel?
Anne: I'm not allowed to say too much yet--not even the title (which I loooove!). But I can tell you that Gretchen and Daniel are the main characters again. And be prepared for even more danger, romance, and murder this time around!

Emma: Are there any YA books you want to recommend?
Anne: Oh, wow, do you have an hour to spare because I could go on and on? There are so many great books out there. I'm part of two YA author blog groups--the YA Valentines (http://yavalentines.blogspot.com/) and YA Series Insiders (http://yaseriesinsiders.com/)--and I'm really enjoying reading the other members' books. Their stories and writing styles are so different. Plus they pull me out of the nonfiction rut I fall into when I'm doing research.

Emma: Do you have any favorite fairy tales?
Anne: Beauty and the Beast, hands down. I love how Beauty learns to see past Beast's exterior into the person inside. 

Thanks again, Anne!  It was a pleasure to interview you.

3 comments:

  1. Ok. I generally don't read historical fiction, particularly not WWII historical fiction. but this sounds pretty good, so I might just have to give it a try. (When I have time. Right now I still have a very full reading list.)

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  2. Ahhhh! So glad you loved this book. I think it's the best historical fiction book I've ever read and I am so excited for the next book. It's gonna be a looooong wait. Great interview too :)

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  3. I'm going to be reading this one soon!!! I'm so excited. It sounds amazing and I haven't heard much about it yet as far as reviews go so I'm super happy to hear that you loved it!

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