Inspired by true events in Warsaw during World War 2, The Keeper of Hidden Books is a truly powerful novel full of poignancy and love. It is heart wrenching and raw as it depicts the Nazi occupation of Poland in stark detail. It also had my heart racing many times, especially towards the end, which is exciting, horrific, heart warming and heart breaking. This is a book that had me on an almighty emotional roller coaster!
So rich in historic detail, this powerful story showcases the strength of human resilience, the might of friendship and the power of books. It is so captivating and also really educational. As a true history geek with a deep love of historical fiction, I really feel I learnt a lot from this beautiful book. For example, the brave Polish civilians risking their lives to hide the books the Nazi’s banned, and running secret underground libraries for patrons to use, including innocent children. Getting lost in the story of a book gave many of the Polish people hope, including Jewish people who were horrifically excluded from civilian life and trapped in a ghetto full of squalor and death.
The Keeper of Hidden Books begins in 1939. Warsaw teenager Zofia is on the brink of finishing secondary school and wondering what to do with her life. Her father is a renowned doctor and she considers following in his footsteps. Yet Zofia is a true bibliophile and also considers becoming an author. Zofia has a great set of friends, especially her best friend Janina, who is Jewish.
Yet nothing prepares Zofia and Janina for their beloved country being invaded by Hitler’s army, nor the horrors of the subsequent occupation. Especially as their friendship is ripped apart by Janina and her parents being forced to live in the Jewish ghetto.
The determination of both Zofia and Janina to maintain their friendship throughout the dismal years of death, horror and forced separation is truly inspiring, as is their determination to distribute the illicit books to their fellow Polish bibliophiles.
With her family torn apart by the Nazi occupation, the devastating loss of her friends and her greatest pleasure of reading the books she loves now an illegal act, Zofia becomes more and more involved with the Polish resistance. Even though her defiance against the Nazi occupation leads her into danger many times, including fighting in the 1944 uprising, she is determined to help those she loves, as well as all her fellow Poles, especially the Jewish community in Warsaw.
I loved The Keeper of Hidden Books, snatching anytime I could to read as I was desperate to know what happens to Zofia, Janina and all the people they hold dear. I especially loved the beautiful growing relationship between Zofia and Darek, a fellow bibliophile and very special friend to her. It was their scenes during the uprising that especially stole my heart.
The Keeper of Hidden Books is the first book I have read by bestselling author, Madeline Martin, but I will definitely be reading more from her. In fact I have already purchased her previous novel, The Last Bookshop in London, a New York Times bestseller.
Although The Keeper of Hidden Books is a story inspired by atrocities that happened around 80 years ago, it is sadly very relevant today. That is why I feel historical fiction is so important. The manner in which Madeline Martin brilliantly weaves all the historical facts, including the history of Poland before World War 2 into the captivating narrative is truly fascinating. It is also really important as we all need to learn from history in the hope that modern day atrocities will cease.
The Keeper of Hidden Books is released in paperback on 28 September 2023. If you love wartime fiction, this is a definite must read book.
Thank you to Anne Cater from Random Things Tours for inviting me to not only be part of the blog tour of this brilliant book, but also for giving me the privilege of kicking the blog tour off. To follow the blog tour, please see below.