Thursday, May 29, 2014

REVIEW: Prisoner of Night and Fog - Anne Blankman

Gretchen Muller is the daughter of a man who died to save Adolf Hitler. The daughter of a sainted martyr. Even when no one else understood her, Uncle Dolf was always there for her. He taught her music and art, he told her about the sacrifices one must make for their fatherland. Gretchen understood completely, she was the perfect Aryan. But one day, a chance meeting with the Jewish reporter Daniel Cohen forces her to question her beliefs. And she has to confront another question, the most disturbing of all – could Uncle Dolf have another face?

I must not have stressed this point enough – but I love history. So throw anything at me with tags like war, Holocaust, civil rights, and I will catch.

Books I’ve usually read dealt with the Holocaust, or was set during WWII. So this book enticed me the way shiny things attract a magpie. Hitler isn’t chancellor of Germany yet, he’s a politician and the leader of the National Socialist Party. And I ask you, how many books dared to cast Hitler as a character in a fictitious story?

I have exams going on and the fact that I finished this book in two sittings is testament enough to the engrossing plot. People could say, “Well obviously, it’s just some fictitious characters woven into the actual story – that’s not very original”. True.  But there is a lot of skill involved in writing this book. Manipulating a real piece of history to serve as a background for her basic plot starring Gretchen is challenging. As far as you and I are concerned, this is a compelling story, one we could have come across only if we were history students. I don’t do twofaced things like condemn a book that I enjoyed because the complete storyline wasn’t born out of the writers’ minds. I mean, has no one got a problem with Shakespeare?

Casting someone like Hitler whose personality is treated as a case study by psychologists takes nerve. And we get the image of a loving uncle along with that of the psychopath he actually is, we get another angle to look at the short man. How he used mere words to start a war. 

Then there is Gretchen and Daniel. Maybe the circumstances in which they met were a bit too deliberate, and maybe they moved onto the ship a bit too quickly – but I’m grateful because that would have meant stretching the story. All the characters in this book felt like they had their own stories. Their development must have taken a lot of pain, especially Reinhard’s (read, and you’ll know who and why).

But.

The writing was very dull. There could have been a lot of German woven into the writing, but there is none, save for the “Fraulein's” and “Herr's” and the occasional “Heil Hitler's”. The writing style was simply a medium to tell the story, nothing more. And the world building involved could be likened to that found in a history textbook – this is where he lived, that is where she danced, this is where he was killed.
But this is a really good story, trust me. Shame on you if you pass up on this one.

VERDICT: 3.5 stars


P.S. – This one is a series, you hear? *rubs hands gleefully*
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