In her luminous and groundbreaking debut, New York Times bestselling author Pam Jenoff shows the unimaginable sacrifices one woman must make in a time of war
Nineteen-year-old Emma Bau has been married only three weeks when Nazi tanks thunder into her native Poland. Within days Emma's husband, Jacob, is forced to disappear underground, leaving her imprisoned within the city's decrepit Jewish ghetto. But then, in the dead of night, the resistance smuggles her out. Taken to Krakow to live with Jacob's Catholic aunt, Krysia, Emma takes on a new identity as Anna Lipowski, a gentile.
Emma's already precarious situation is complicated by her introduction to Kommandant Richwalder, a high-ranking Nazi official who hires her to work as his assistant. Urged by the resistance to use her position to access details of the Nazi occupation, Emma must compromise her safetyand her marriage vowsin order to help Jacob's cause. As the atrocities of war intensify, so does Emma's relationship with the Kommandant, building to a climax that will risk not only her double life, but also the lives of those she loves.
With luminous simplicity, Jenoff's breathtaking debut chronicles the life of a young Jewish bride during the Nazi occupation of Krak w, Poland, in WWII. Emma Bau, a shy librarian, escapes the city's Jewish ghetto with the aid of the underground resistance movement that Jacob, her activist husband, has already joined. Emma assumes a new gentile identity as Anna Lipowski and goes to live with Jacob's elderly aunt, a wealthy Catholic widow who has also taken in Lukasz Izakowicz, the only surviving child of a famous rabbi and his murdered wife. As Anna, Emma catches the eye of Kommandant Georg Richwalder, second in charge of the General Government, at a dinner party. The handsome Nazi is so impressed by her German language skills (and her beauty) that he asks her to become his personal assistant. Emma accepts, hoping to secure valuable information for the resistance, but the chemistry between them presents challenges that test her loyalties to Jacob and her heart. This is historical romance at its finest.
Customer ReviewsSee All
Exquisite portrayal of love, betrayal,and heartbreak
Novel is superb in capturing the horrors of life in WW II Poland. Characters well drawn.
Ending as it began with mystery and question, hardships, and simple daily struggles living a life conflicted by want,necessity and survival.
Intriguing and engaging despite the holes in timeline and failure to actually develop the heroine
I couldn’t help but grab for this title when the review opportunity arose. World War II historic fiction with all of the grey areas brought forth with a need to survive versus your own moral code. Jenoff created a romance to play in the foreground of major political and societal upheaval. But, there were plenty of good ideas brought forward in this story, and I was completely wrapped up in the reading to the end.
With an initial premise that could go any of several different directions, Emma is a newlywed, young, rather sheltered girl when her homeland is invaded by the Nazis. Her husband, a Jewish Activist, flees for his life, and Emma must be smuggled out of the city to a gentile Aunt’s home in Krakow, assume a new identity and live through the war. Now living as Anna, an introduction to Kommandant Richwalder results in the offer of a position in the Kommandant’s office.
As is not uncommon, youth and inexperience when faced with power often leads to situations that are loosely termed romance. The power imbalance here is so great, the consequences so dire, that I cannot see Anna/Emma’s attraction as more than infatuation. Even though, Jenoff did make the character of Georg reasonably sympathetic – and rightly so. Everyone in the war was not all good or all bad – even as their actions did skew their reputations later.
So – we have a not-so-unusual romance or flirtation in a time of war, and then the story starts to fail the premise. Too many coincidences to neatly wrap-up threads started, with a heroine who seems completely unaware of the devastation around her. A timeframe that is, at best, problematic in terms of actual history – a failing that I wish didn’t add to the negatives here. Facts are easy to verify and check, and while personal accounts shared through family may have additional details to share, the trajectory of the war, the presence of the occupying force, and the questions around when Germany realized that they could (not would) lose the war all play in far too early in the story to hold the pieces in place. Intriguing and engaging despite the holes in timeline and failure to actually develop the heroine will provide readers with an interesting story, but one that could be much more satisfying.
I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.