I used to be a huge fan of historical fiction novels. At one point, this was the only genre I would read from. But as time went on, I became more drawn to fantasy, science fiction, and mysteries. Now, it’s a rare thing for me to read a historical fiction story – but it is always an exciting experience. I was thrilled when I saw this book up on Netgalley and could not wait to start reading it…. so here is my review:
Synopsis (Goodreads): In early 1943, Magda Ritter’s parents send her to relatives in Bavaria, hoping to keep her safe from the Allied bombs strafing Berlin. Young German women are expected to do their duty–working for the Reich or marrying to produce strong, healthy children. After an interview with the civil service, Magda is assigned to the Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat. Only after weeks of training does she learn her assignment: she will be one of several young women tasting the Fuhrer’s food, offering herself in sacrifice to keep him from being poisoned.
Perched high in the Bavarian Alps, the Berghof seems worlds away from the realities of battle. Though terrified at first, Magda gradually becomes used to her dangerous occupation–though she knows better than to voice her misgivings about the war. But her love for a conspirator within the SS, and her growing awareness of the Reich’s atrocities, draw Magda into a plot that will test her wits and loyalty in a quest for safety, freedom, and ultimately, vengeance.
Review: While I think that this novel shows a very unique perspective of such a historical point in time, it failed to captivate me.
I really liked how the author gave readers an insightful look into Hitler’s lifestyle. We see the opulence of the food and the way many people consider Hitler to be a father figure, someone worth supporting and fighting for. The author doesn’t shy away from talking about the horrors that Hitler has inflicted on people, but the focus is very much on what it is like to be close to Hitler.
I actually have no problems in terms of the content, message, or intent of the story. In terms of these 3 aspects, the author did a great job.
But this wasn’t a story.
It was hard to connect with Magda, our protagonist. At no point did I feel sympathy for her – and I had plenty of opportunities to do so. Where the author lavishly described details of life in Germany, there was an omission in creating depth in his characters. The relationships that developed throughout the story were lackluster and didn’t have the right flow to it. While I could factually understand why there were people who did not agree with Hitler and wanted him to die, I could not feel the emotion behind those sentiments. Of course, it’s obvious that Hitler did bad things and deserved to be punished, but why don’t you make me feel it in my gut as I read about it from the characters who are seeing this cruel side of him?! I wanted more connection and more depth to the story and the characters. At times, it felt like I was being told and not shown things, and that led to this feeling that the story was just surface-deep and had nothing more beneath it.
Do I think this is an important topic to discuss and an interesting perspective to take? Yes. But it was far too factual, with more telling than showing and lacked a great deal of depth in terms of character development. For those reasons, I’m giving it a 2/5 stars.
I received this novel as an advance copy from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.