A debut offering from author Mandy Robotham, this is the UK release review for this title, it can be found under another title (The German Midwife) in the US. Please read on for my review of
A Woman of War
Alternate history: using real events and people and adding a smattering of ‘what if’ to explore other options – much like the ‘what if I went left on that day rather than right – what would happen? And here, adding to that concept with multiple flashback memories to the 1920’s, the story during World War II, and ending with the fall of the Berlin Wall, we get Anke’s story. A midwife in Berlin, determined to serve both the mother and baby, no matter their ‘station’ with the Reich, Anke was simply doing what she felt was right. And that put her straight into the hands of the SS, internment in a ‘work camp’ as a ‘political dissident’ – no yellow but a red star for her and her fellow outspoken women – ‘pests’. Through gripping and often harrowing tales of camp life and survival, Anke has come into the notice of the hierarchies in the Reich, and has been chosen to serve as midwife to Eva Braun.
Though still a prisoner, Anke is offered a small house, food and clothes, some freedom of movement and the friendship of an SS officer tasked with the ‘management’ of the Berghof, and most importantly, her camaraderie with Braun. Determined to do (as always) the best for mother and child, despite some serious moral questions she constantly finds demanding her attention and thought, Anke is single-minded in helping Eva through the birth – despite the obvious pitfalls and landmines.
While I’ve read other titles that manage to occupy the moral contradictions of those brought into service of a Reich that has taken much from them, and few who are wholly complicit or committed to the ‘ultimate plan’ of the Nazis and Hitler, few have managed to dive into the complexity of emotions and self-doubts that arise – pitting one’s will to survive against the repeated and often senseless atrocities that are occurring all around. From Anke’s early introduction and our recognition that she sees only mother and child in the labour room, her own questions about her own soul, her questions about choices and the ‘need’ for them, and her worries (not unfounded) that her life is more in danger with her improved circumstances than before, the entirety of the choices and the fact that the line between good and evil – and acts committed as those of a ‘lesser evil’ and the worry that regaining pieces of the humanity that is so degraded by what are, at the moment, simple choices for survival become a visceral punch to the gut for readers. Unless you are in the moment, you really haven’t any idea what you’d do – and that realization that facing horrible and often inhumane circumstances, where freedom of choice is a hope on the horizon so far away – Anke manages to maintain the best of intentions, even when actions are questionable. A stunning debut that is both gripping, prosaic and wholly engaging, more so for the frank honesty of the narrative voice in Anke, and the potential of this fictional story as plausible, if not entirely possible.
Title: A Woman of War
Author: Mandy Robotham
Genre: European History, Historic Woman's Fiction, Setting: Germany, World War II
Published by: Avon Books UK
Published on: 14 December, 2018
Source: Publisher via NetGalley
Audio Length: 10 Hours: 1 minute
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For readers of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and Kate Furnivall comes a gritty tale of courage, betrayal and love in the most unlikely of places.
Germany, 1944. Taken from the camps to serve the Führer himself, Anke Hoff is assigned as midwife to one of Hitler’s inner circle. If she refuses, her family will die.
Torn between her duty as a caregiver and her hatred for the Nazi regime, Anke is swept into a life unlike anything she’s ever known – and she discovers that many of those at the Berghof are just as trapped as she is. And soon, she’s falling for a man who will make her world more complicated still…
Before long, the couple is faced with an impossible choice – and the consequences could be deadly. Can their forbidden love survive the horrors of war? And, more importantly, will they?
A copy of this title was provided via Publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: