Before he was Hitler, he was Gretchen’s Uncle Dolf
It’s 1931, and, in Munich, Gretchen Muller, daughter of Nazi martyr, Klaus Muller, is about to have her world flipped upside down. For her whole life, “Uncle Dolf” has seemed nothing but kind and wonderful in her eyes, but when an unexpected encounter throws her into the world of Jewish journalist, Daniel Cohen, everything she has known to be true about the Fuhrer is going to be questioned.
The first in a new YA series, Prisoner of Night and Fog is an intriguing take on how history’s most famous dictator manipulated those around him. Gretchen makes for an interesting protagonist; the plot is pushed along almost entirely by her character development, and as her world becomes more and more dangerous, it is easy to get caught up in it.
Possibly the most fascinating side of this book is the relationship between her and Jewish journalist, Daniel. National Socialists don’t often mingle with Jews in 1930s Germany, and this subplot really adds an extra spice to the book.
If there was one part of the plot which let this book down it was where Blankman chose to highlight the psychiatric tendencies of Hitler, and other members of the National Socialist Party. At times, I felt this rather distracted from the main plot, and while it was an interesting idea, it just seemed rather out of place, and not overly important to the story at hand. It does raise a lot of very compelling questions, but would’ve perhaps been better suited to a separate book entirely, and not in the middle of this one.
Despite being a competent writer, there are moments throughout Prisoner of Night and Fog that highlight Blankman’s relative lack of writing experience. She has a tendency to overdo the description, particular in the early chapters, and the extensive use of adverbs and metaphors is slightly tiring after a while. That said, the phrase ‘Her heart kicked against her ribs like a recalcitrant mule‘ is one of the best lines i’ve read in a long time, and is just one of many instances which suggests Blankman is one to watch out for in the years to come.
Overall, it was a very enjoyable read, with fascinating character development and good structure, which nicely picked up pace as the book progressed. I can see it going down very well with young readers, particularly those in their teens, and shares a similarity in style with Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.