Set in Germany during the 1930s and 40s, The Girl from Berlin is distinctly historical fiction. It is a wartime drama yet I would also class this gripping story as a thriller – and its a damn good thriller too. Full of intrigue and dramatic subterfuge, I was on edge all the way through.
This is a story that captivated me, educated me and chilled me to the bone. It powerfully explores the dangers of growing up in Nazi Germany, even as a ‘good Aryan girl’ and how the Nazi ideology bred vanity and ‘delusions of importance’ that eventually led to betrayal, ripping families apart.
It is a slow burning read that is rich in detail and emotion. I couldn’t put it down.
The Girl from Berlin is juxtaposed between the coming of age story of Liesel, who we initially meet as she’s getting ready to attend the 1936 Berlin Olympics; and the idealistic Sam Houghton, a captain in the US army who is sent to post-war Germany to assist with denazification.
With her father working for the new government, the narrative follows Liesel’s privileged life as Germany prepares for war and the subsequent war years. Although she barely notices the subtle changes taking place in society, Liesel cannot understand the growing tension between her parents, nor the adoration that many of her peers have for Hitler. However when she witnesses an old Jewish man brutally attacked by a group of SS officers, she is shocked and outraged. Liesel begins to ask questions. And then her Jewish housekeeper Gerda, along with her daughter Rosa who are desperate for survival, ask Liesel for help.
Sam’s story begins in late 1945 as he arrives in Frankfurt to seek out prominent Nazis to hold them to account for their crimes against humanity. He hires Anna, a young enigmatic German woman as his interpreter and secretary. Drawn to her, he soon realises that Anna is not all that she seems.
This is an emotionally-charged novel that portrays the destructive power of vanity and fear. It is compelling and heartbreaking as it explores love, loss and betrayal.
My one criticism of The Girl from Berlin is the book cover – personally I feel the cover does not do this great read justice. Yes, it is a nice cover that some may view as romantic. However this is a hard-hitting, emotive novel; one I loved and couldn’t put down.
Thank you to Sarah Hardy from Bookouture for inviting me to The Girl from Berlin blog tour to help publicise this compelling book. To read the reviews from my fellow book bloggers also on the blog tour, please see below.
The Girl from Berlin was published on 25th February 2021.