Be prepared. This is a well written book but the subject matter is very difficult. Down has given us an unnerving novel of Hitler's Germany.
The characters are portrayed very well. Walter is a high official in Hitler's army and is involved with exterminations. His character is developed so well, he almost made me sick. His part in the novel really showed what happens to a man when he is devoted to his leader at the expense of his own family.
The reality this novel portrayed is shocking. It was hard to read about the systematic poisoning of handicapped and “genetically impure.” I had no idea that sick children and psychiatric patients were also exterminated. The Child Euthanasia Program dealt with children diagnosed as unworthy of life.
It was hard to stomach the top secret meetings where extermination programs were talked about calmly by German officials. The descriptions of the mistreatment of prisoners was hard to read, as was the account of the work in the crematorium.
It was a time when those opposing the actions of the Nazis did not know who to trust. Yet there were valiant attempts by some. Others tried to get the news of what was really happening in Germany out to other nations. In a Historical Epilogue, Down shares some of the work done by religious leaders and other Christians. Many died for their humane efforts.
I hadn't been aware of the plight of women under Hitler. One character in the novel had a wife who had been a brilliant lawyer. But when Hitler was elected, “no women were allowed to practice law – or teach or work at all, really.” (61)
I highly recommend this novel. It is a graphic exploration of how people deal with progressing evil. Some hardened their hearts and went along with it. Others fought with all they had. Although there is no discussion guide included with this book, there would be much to discuss. This novel is not a light hearted one nor would I call it entertaining. It is the kind of novel we need to read from time to time to remind ourselves of the reality of evil.
My rating: 5/5 stars.
Therese Down has taught English language and literature for over twenty years. This is her second novel. She lives in Worcestershire.
Lion Hudson, distributed in the U.S. By Kregel, 320 pages.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of an independent and honest review.