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Prisoner of Night and Fog

Review

Prisoner of Night and Fog

Just before one of the most tumultuous times in history unravels, a young girl named Gretchen Muller in Munich --- an honorary niece of Adolf Hitler with a special place in his inner circle --- begins to learn the truth about her “Uncle Dolf.” With the help of an intelligent Jewish reporter --- whom she reluctantly agrees to work with --- she investigates the story behind her supposed hero father’s death and the inner workings of the Nazi machine.

PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG gave me chills. I have no other way to describe it. I had a very visceral reaction to reading about Hitler, even a fictional Hitler, and the abject blindness that Gretchen, her family and the other Nazi party members had during his unfortunate rise to power. How could they not have seen the horrifying future that lay ahead? How could they not realize that they were following a madman and all would be better served if they stopped this mob mentality? I was disgusted with many of the characters. However, Anne Blankman so carefully crafts her story so that we see this all build-up, only to watch it unravel. It is great character development for Gretchen as she learns the truth about her family’s actual status in Hitler’s favor, as well as the truth of his future plans for Germany and the scape-goated Jewish men and women. How I cheered when she finally confronts Hitler and says so powerfully and yet so simply, “You’re wrong.” What a brave and intelligent character Gretchen Muller turns out to be. And even though I wanted desperately to reach through the pages and shake some sense into her at the beginning, I was so happy to follow her on her journey. Especially after she meets Daniel.

PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG gave me chills…due in part to its complexities and  unforgettable main characters, I will be thinking about this novel for a long time.

Daniel, a Jewish reporter for The Munich Post, like Gretchen, is like a breath of fresh air in a novel filled with mostly stagnant characters. In the beginning pages, he’s a bit hard to read, but as we get to know him, we realize he is multi-faceted. He’s not only an intense reporter but a loyal and brave young man, determined to shine a light at Hitler’s awful growing regime.

At first, when I heard that there would be a budding romance between Gretchen --- once a Nazi sweetheart --- and Daniel, I cringed. I thought it too easy and was preparing for something derivative and forced. I was very wrong. The romance is a slow burn, and you lean forward a little while reading, as if you could speed it up. Most of the time, they grudgingly work together to piece together clues of Gretchen’s family’s past and only come together much later in the book. But when they do, it’s sweet and almost worth the wait.

I say almost worth the wait because at times, this book was very slow. I may be in the minority here, but I thought it only picked up a little after the halfway mark. I understand why, of course --- Anne Blankman had to do so much world-building and exposition in the novel’s early pages to lay the book’s foundation, and I commend her for the copious amount of research that went into THE PRISONER OF NIGHT AND FOG. It was amazing to read the facts Anne wove into this fictional world, and once the action started, it was fast-paced and extreme.

I was especially interested in the psychology of the novel --- I’m particularly interested in PTSD, a complicated diagnosis during those times, and why people become evil, and Anne touches upon both of these things with Hitler (and Gretchen’s brother). It’s really intriguing to read about Hitler’s hysterical condition after World War I and his obvious diagnosis as a psychopath, as well as what that means for those around him. I also loved the character of Herr Doktor Whitestone, the psychologist that helps Gretchen puzzle some of this out, and was glad that, along with Daniel, he was a voice of sanity during a time of such madness.

I’m glad I read this book. It is very unlike anything I would have picked up, mostly because I was sure I wouldn’t have been able to relate to Gretchen Muller. Like I said earlier, I was very wrong. Gretchen is resilient, brave and so intelligent. I am truly interested to see where her story goes, even though I fear for her future. It’s so hard to stay optimistic about a character when you are so aware of where she’s heading --- it’s like starting to watch the Titanic when you know that Jack and Rose don’t stand a chance.

I’d definitely recommend this book, not only to history buffs but also to anyone who wants to see such a character change and such a paradigm shift take place in less than 400 pages. It was truly fascinating to watch and it was definitely that change that pushed me on when I feared for the outcome. Due in part to its complexities and unforgettable main characters, I will be thinking about this novel for a long time.

Reviewed by Brianna Robinson on May 7, 2014

Prisoner of Night and Fog
by Anne Blankman

  • Publication Date: April 22, 2014
  • Genres: Historical Thriller, Youth Fiction
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Balzer + Bray
  • ISBN-10: 0062278819
  • ISBN-13: 9780062278814