1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.
When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.
But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.
And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance.
In 1944 Paul Brant returns home injured after serving on the front lines. His village has changed quite a bit and his own father admitted that he would not have recognized his own son if he didn’t know he was returning home. While on one of his daily walks he stumbles upon a hut (a place for officers to rest and the injured to recover) and sees a woman working the fields that looks eerily familiar to him. He starts to obsess over how he can get closer to this woman to see if she is who he thinks she is. As luck would have it, he is offered a job at the hut as a steward. It is an opportunity he cannot turn down and the perfect opportunity to take a closer look.
I love this era and read it often. I was drawn to this book because it is told from the perspective of Paul Brandt, a German soldier. This is very unusual and I was very intrigued how this story would unfold. His was not the only perspective, but did make up the majority of the book.
The author William Ryan did a fantastic job of ramping up the intensity of this book as the story moved along. Most of the story takes place at the hut and the war was literally closing in around them. They could not stay there forever and I wondered who would get out and how.
One of the many storylines is about Polya Kolanka, a female tank driver. I was utterly fascinated with her story and in awe of her strength and fearlessness in a male-dominated position. As fascinating as she is I was left a bit disappointed with her storyline and had hoped she would have been integrated into the story a bit more.
The following quote stuck with me throughout the book and I feel that it captures the essence of the story quite nicely:
“So answer me this question,” he continued. “If you want to prevent evil, should you watch from afar and do nothing or take steps to confront it directly?”
My Rating: 4/5
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publication Date: 8/25/2016
Pages: 400 (Paperback)
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