Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman

Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne BlankmanPrisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman
Series: Prisoner of Night and Fog #1
Published by Balzer + Bray on April 22, 2014
Genres: Historical, Mystery, Romance
Pages: 389
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
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five-stars

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?

From debut author Anne Blankman comes this harrowing and evocative story about an ordinary girl faced with the extraordinary decision to give up everything she's ever believed . . . and to trust her own heart instead.

Wow. I am in awe of how amazing this novel is, let alone for a debut. Anne Blankman’s Prisoner of Night and Fog is a book I had high expectations for, but it left them all in the dust. Truly, I couldn’t conceive of the book being this amazing, but Prisoner of Night and Fog hits every note beautifully: the writing, the plot, the concept, the history, and the characters. This is a book you’re going to see me talking about a lot, and will no doubt be on my lists of favorite books at the year’s end. Anne Blankman debuts with a heartbreaking, psychologically-compelling, dark and beautiful novel set during the Weimar Republic era as Hitler rises to power.

Blankman, as most historical novelists do, ends the book with Author’s Notes, which briefly get into the research done and how the history differed from the fictional account. Though I generally don’t read any extra material in books, I make an exception for these Author’s Notes, because I love hearing about all the work that went into the novel and their assessment on history versus fiction. They also always inspire me to read a bit more history, though I usually don’t follow through. I will be adding some of Blankman’s recommendations on Goodreads, however.

The Weimar Republic era has always been one of my favorites to study. The Weimar government was actually a pretty good one, but, strapped with war reparations, had no recourse but to print more money to pay them, which resulted in rampant inflation. The German people were starving and looking for a way out or someone to blame. Into this vacuum comes Adolf Hitler. The political dynamics and timing play out in a way that bring all of this about, and I think the interplay is fascinating. Fiction tends to focus more often on WWI and WWII, so I  was thrilled that an author delved into the meaty time between the wars.As fascinating as WWII is, considering the steps that lead to the outbreak of another world war so soon after the first is even more compelling for me.

The heroine of Prisoner of Night and Fog is Gretchen Müller. She is a Nazi and thinks of Hitler as Uncle Dolf. Her family has been close with his ever since her father sacrificed his life to protect Hitler during the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923. Gretchen’s father died and became a martyr of the Nazi cause. Because of this, Hitler watches out for the Müllers. Blankman does a really good job of capturing life for Gretchen before her eyes are opened to what’s happening. Until someone informs her that there’s more to her father’s death, Gretchen never questions Hitler or his beliefs. It doesn’t occur to her that she should question them.

Portraying Hitler as solely a creepy and evil figure would be easy to do, but Blankman goes further and captures his many sides. Part of the reason Hitler rose to power was that he was charismatic; he was good at making people believe him. His speeches were compelling and he put a lot of thought into his actions. He was a skilled manipulator, so skilled that many didn’t even know that he was manipulating them. There’s a really powerful scene in Prisoner of Night and Fog where Gretchen has begun to suspect Hitler is not the sweet man she thought he was, but, even so, hearing him orate, she finds herself falling into the sway of his ideas. The Hitler depicted in Prisoner of Night and Fog is all the more fearsome a villain for these skills and his ability to mask what he is.

Blankman sets up a perfect comparison to Adolf Hitler in the form of Reinhard, Gretchen’s older brother. Reinhard has enlisted with the SA, and he’s a success there, since he’s a brutal person. Though I’ve not taken much psychology, Reinhard is a clear-cut case, a classic pscyhopath. He’s terrorized Gretchen all of her life and, in a lot of ways, he’s more terrifying than Hitler in Gretchen’s personal story. Blankman considers the psychological aspects of these figures, which is eerie and upsetting, but makes for a very thought-provoking and powerful read.

Gretchen’s eyes are opened to the truth of the Nazi party and Adolf Hitler by Daniel Cohen, a young Jewish reporter. Daniel is an immediate shock to her sensibilities, so different from what she’s been told Jews are. I pretty much picture him as Max from the film version of The Book Thief. Daniel’s a wonderful figure and I really adore their romance. At the same time, though, I love that Prisoner of Night and Fog really isn’t about Daniel. He presents her with the impetus to get moving, but this is her journey. She takes the biggest risks, does her own research, and makes choices for herself. Nothing she does is because of a boy; it’s all for her. She doesn’t believe what Daniel says because he says it, but because the evidence of Hitler’s own treatment of her and a closer investigation of Hitler’s own words makes it clear that Daniel’s words are true.

Gretchen Müller is an amazing heroine. She lives every day in circumstances under which I would crumble. Even before Prisoner of Night and Fog begins, she’s been navigating life with her psychopathic brother and a mother who refuses to acknowledge the danger Reinhard presents. As the novel unfolds, Gretchen bears everything so well. She’s terrified constantly, but she always keeps thinking and doing her best. She doesn’t always follow the wisest course, but she does what she feels is right unerringly.

The short version? Read this book. I hope you love it as much as I do. I also hope I don’t have to wait too long for Blankman’s next novel, because I need it.

Favorite Quote:

She was merely part of the scene, an anonymous girl astride a decrepit bicycle.

No, not anonymous. Maybe she didn’t matter enough to the Brauns, certainly not enough to her mother and Uncle Dolf, and definitely not at all to Reinhard. But she mattered to herself. And that was all that needed to be true. She would figure something out.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

gif book thief max

11 responses to “Review: Prisoner of Night and Fog by Anne Blankman”

  1. Katie says:

    THIS BOOK. OMG THIS BOOK!!!!! I read this back in November, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting other people reading it so I could gush with them. I don’t even know how Anne Blankman wrote such an incredible book. Like…whaaa??? It broke my brain. Gretchen is amazing; she’s definitely one of my favorite YA heroines. And the twisted mindgames that Hitler plays on her and everyone around him was just so well written. I also liked that the romance wasn’t really a big part of the book, and honestly, I think it wasn’t necessary. This is for sure my favorite YA WW2 book – I found this concept much more intriguing than that of the Elizabeth Wein books.
    Katie recently posted…My Most Anticipated 2014 DebutsMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Yes, the mindgames are amaaaazing. Like, Hitler’s not overtly terrible for the first half or so, and that’s just perfectly how it should have been. The romance wasn’t necessary, but I still liked it. It’s not technically a WWII book, but it’s one of my favorite books for sure. While I like the Wein books, I did like this one more.

  2. Wonderful review, Christina! For sure this will be on my favorites list at the end of the year. It’s so well written and the research is clear. I love that it was able to strike a balance between historical accuracy and fiction; there were some truly terrifying moments for Gretchen, made all the worse because we know how close to the truth this story is. Anne Blankman told me it’s a duology, so I can’t wait for the next book!
    Danielle @ Love at First Page recently posted…Top Ten Books About FriendshipMy Profile

  3. Yessssssssssss. This is definitely one of my favorite novels so far this year. I still get chills when I think about Hitler as Blankman writes him (that scene where he was coming onto Gretchen a little still freaks me out, but it’s a favorite because it’s so effective) and Gretchen + Daniel = all the love. If I had the time to reread even one book fully this year, it would be this one. We don’t always agree, but when we do, a book is either really good or really bad, it seems.

    Spring/summer 2015 and her next book won’t be here near soon enough. NEED MORE.

    • Christina Franke says:

      THAT SCENE. I’d been afraid of something like that, but I wasn’t expecting her to really go there. And, though he backed off pretty easily, the way he did it was so hauntingly creepy.

      There is that. Major props to books that can please us both.

      Wahhhh, that’s so far from now. *whines pathetically*

  4. Bonnie says:

    So glad to see you enjoyed this! I had heard from someone about it not being very historically accurate but it seems like that wasn’t the case. I’ve never even heard of The Weimar Republic era. Really need to get to this soon, vacation was super distracting and I need to get back on track. This is going to be coming up real soon, I can’t wait!
    Bonnie recently posted…Book Review – Girl, Interrupted by Susanna KaysenMy Profile

    • Christina Franke says:

      Hmm, I’ve got a horrible memory, so I can’t guarantee, but I didn’t note anything incorrect. I mean, she made some changes for fictional purposes, but the Author’s Note is really clear about what she added or altered, and she references a lot of histories. I think she did her due diligence, though I certainly didn’t fact check everything. But, yes, you definitely need to read this one!

  5. Lyn Kaye says:

    I’m wanting to get my hands on this one. I like the dilemma building in the book, and I am very interested to see how this whole thing turns out. Lovely review!
    Lyn Kaye recently posted…Graphic Novel Review: This One SummerMy Profile

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