V.S. Alexander brings a unique story and perspective to the blog today with his new release a mix of historic fact and fiction to tell the tale of a young German woman who serves as one of many food tasters for Hitler. Please read on for my review of
When we first meet Magda – the year is 1943, and she is a mid-twenty year old woman of little drive and ambition, living at home with her parents with no work, a basic education and little interest in the political polemic of the time. Her father is not a fan of the reich, and while he does his best to keep his own political skepticism quiet, his wife is much more inclined to believe in the party line and the charismatic man at the forefront. Magda isn’t interested – more put out by the lack of available men because of the war than the politics that lie beneath it. But, this is all to change. The Allied bombings of Berlin have started in earnest, and some close calls move her parents to action – Magda is to travel south to her Uncle’s house and stay where it is safer.
Safer is a relative term – both Magda’s aunt and uncle are huge supporters of the party – and not particularly interested in hearing otherwise. An edict from her aunt have her searching for work: her uncle’s governmental connections have her ‘interviewing’ for her suitability to ‘serve’ the Reich – with most of the testing and interviewing by the SS. Soon, Magda is whipped off to serve Hitler as a food taster – one of 16 women trained in detecting poisons that may have been included in the food served to the leader.
Less about the rightness (or utter wrongness) of the regime – the story shows Magda’s awakening to the reality of the horrors of the war: the tension and loss of life all to serve the ego and desires of a power-mad, not exactly stabile human. From the expected adoration of Hitler to the backstabbing and rumormongering among the staff as they jockey for position, the blind allegiance to Germany’s rightness and fitness to win the war, and the subtle (at first) then growing disgust with the war, with Hitler and with the many stories of destruction and inhumanity not reported in the news. With particular attention paid to Magda by an SS officer, some of the truth comes forward, and she begins to ‘see’ the man behind the curtain – this despotic and erratic leader, his need for retribution against those who cross him, and a particular ‘communion’ that Magda finds with Eva Braun. Each moment of recognition and increase in privilege for Magda is juxtaposed by increased threats to her position by those jealous of (or suspicious of) her rise –and her increasing disgust and determination that Germany shall lose the war and the losses are all Hitler’s fault all converge to meet in her disgrace and placement in a prison camp – disabused of all privilege and respect that ‘working for Hitler had brought to this point. She sees devastation, experiences horrors and loses her mother, father and friends – believes her husband gone – all before she can use the death of Hitler to surrender to the Americans and share her story.
Alexander has mixed factual day-to-day events from many Germans who lived a similar life, used real characters and tales about their lives and demeanor at various locations (Berchtesgaden, the Wolf’s Lair, Berlin) as well as a character in Magda who grows to lose her disinterest in war and politics to one who is aware and determined to make a change – however small, to end the horrors. There is no way to applaud the horrors of war, or to even understand, not really, the machinations of the ego maniacal Hitler – but the story is less about them than of the ‘ordinary’. Ordinary people who are placed in extraordinary circumstances and manoeuver about to survive – at whatever the cost, until the truth is revealed – and illusions and suppositions about the rightness of the war and past years are either enforced or shattered. A clever story that is well worth the read: showing that in some times in history being ‘unaware’ is the largest crime of all.
Title: The Taster
Author: V.S. Alexander
Genre: German, Historical Fiction, Political Elements, Romantic Elements, Setting: Germany, World War II
Published by: Kensington Publishing Corporation
Published on: 30 January, 2018
Source: Publisher Via Edelweiss
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Amid the turbulence of World War II, a young German woman finds a precarious haven closer to the source of danger than she ever imagined--one that will propel her through the extremes of privilege and terror under Hitler's dictatorship . . .
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.
Vividly written and ambitious in scope, The Taster examines the harrowing moral dilemmas of war in an emotional story filled with acts of extraordinary courage.
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher Via Edelweiss for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.