Happy publication day Catherine Hokin! Your deeply emotional WWII story only goes to prove how many unique stories there are to still be created about one of the bleakest eras of human history. Although this is a work of fiction, all of the literature based during these years finds its source in fact.
Felix falls into the category of ‘Mischling’ – a classification given by the Nazi’s to those who are not fully Jewish but who are tainted by having Jewish blood in their veins. In Felix’s case, he has a Jewish father (which according to the Jewish faith doesn’t make him Jewish as the religion is passed down through the maternal bloodline). His mother goes out of her way to protect him, ensuring he doesn’t fall out of favour with the ruling party. She makes him join the Hitler Youth and urges him to attend regular meetings, regardless of how distasteful he finds them.
Inge is the daughter of wealthy parents. Although her father is a softer, kinder character, her mother is another story altogether: stern and austere. And both of her parents are staunch supporters of The Reich. They force her into marrying a man many years her senior, despite her protests. But Max Eichel is well-respected and his star is rising in Hitler’s ruling party. He’s well-connected and can bring Inge’s father lucrative business deals. So … more of a business merger than a marriage really!
But one fateful night before her wedding, she manages to talk her parents into allowing her to go to a party with a good friend who her family knows well, and she and Felix just happen to meet! Wanting to escape for just a few hours from the life her parents and Max seem to have mapped out for her, she tells Felix her name is Hannah. They share what seems like a few short moments together before the sirens go off and they are separated.
The story follows the trajectory of Felix and Inge’s lives in alternating chapters and I must admit, none of this unfolded how I expected it to! It’s unlike any other war story I’ve read. As both struggle for survival under entirely different circumstances, they each cling to that tiny hope that the other has somehow survived the horrors of the war and of what their beloved country has been forced to endure.
The situation that Inge found herself in was horrific. As a Nazi wife, she was not allowed to question anything, but was merely expected to accept whatever she was told, and to go wherever she was told to. She was as much of a prisoner as those who she saw out of her window at the concentration camps, the only difference being that she was being well fed. She was abused emotionally and mentally and sometimes even physically, which absolutely no hope of escape. Hokin’s accurate description of her situation is chilling.
Hokin’s description of Felix’s PTSD is also spot-on. His inability to adapt to life after the war; the survivor guilt that he carries with him like the heaviest load; his unwillingness to share what he went through with anyone else as he cannot imagine them understanding or being able to bear what he needs so desperately to say; the way it all eats away at him because it has nowhere to go, because he cannot get the words out. Felix survived the war, but it continues to live inside of him, eating away at him like a poison.
This is a soul-searing 4-star read. I didn’t find it an easy book to get through, but once I got into it, I couldn’t put it down.
I seem to have followed a rather meandering career, including marketing and teaching and politics (don’t try and join the dots), to get where I have always wanted to be, which is writing historical fiction. I am a story lover as well as a story writer and nothing fascinates me more than a strong female protagonist and a quest. Hopefully those are what you will encounter when you pick up my books.
I am from the North of England but now live very happily in Glasgow with my American husband. Both my children have left home (one to London and one to Berlin) which may explain why I am finally writing. If I’m not at my desk you’ll most probably find me in the cinema, or just follow the sound of very loud music.
I’d love to hear from you and there are lots of ways you can find me, so jump in via my website https://www.catherinehokin.com/ or on my Cat Hokin FB page or on Twitter @cathokin
Google Play: http://bit.ly/2Nv4e2k
Apple Books: https://apple.co/3afeENf
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