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Review: 'Prisoner of the Night and Fog'

A Book Review

Prisoner of the Night and Fog

by Anne Blankman

A Critical Review by

Jasmine Becker

Gretchen Muller is the adopted niece of Hitler. She calls him by the cozy name “Uncle Dolf”. This book follows her experiences with Nazi Germany, and the National Socialist Party. She is brainwashed until she meets a Jewish reporter, which leads her to find information about her father which could change everything she ever believed to be true.

HarperCollins Publishers

2014

389 pages

978-0-06-227881-4

Historical Fiction

“To Mike, who knows why.”

Anne Blankman grew up in a small town near Albany, New York. She was influenced by her reading of The Diary of Anne Frank, which led to her decision to write about World War II. Nowadays, Blankman lives in Virginia with her husband and daughter.

Remember the Diary of Anne Frank? If you like stories about little girls who are treated poorly, lied to, made to feel inferior, and are a doormat to society, then you have found the right book. A book taking place in Nazi Germany perhaps would have been better told through the eyes of a Jewish boy or girl, an actual Nazi, or even Hitler himself. Instead, this author chose to be completely unoriginal and go from the eyes of a boring teenage girl with a basic, boring crush. There is nothing the reader expects more than a goody two shoes German pet of Hitler to fall head over heels in love with a Jewish nobody.

This Historical fiction novel is good for those who hate reading non-fiction. However, it should be a last resort. This book is lacking quality, and has been very dumbed down. Perhaps if a sixth grader needed to do a book report, this would fit the bill. The author seems to have put a lot of effort into trying to write a story, but also trying to convey information about the National Socialist Party in Germany. In some places, it seems that she’s trying too hard. At times, the wording is tacky. Some readers might feel it to be uneducated, and in many places there are grammatical errors. “And a Jew. She had liked the boy’s eyes; she had thought they were beautiful. And the sharp planes of his face, and his deep, quick voice.” (Page 50) In this quote, it is cringeworthy the amount of grammatical errors. For one, starting off a sentence with “and” is a crime. It is easy to avoid this, and there is no purpose to starting a sentence this way.

The book takes place in Munich, Germany before Hitler’s elevation to chancellor in 1933. It’s in the early 1930s, when Hitler is trying to rack up the support to gain control of Germany. The setting technically takes place in the middle of the actual storyline, because it truly begins in 1923, when Hitler made a failed attempt to overthrow the government. This is when Gretchen’s father supposedly died saving Hitler. Starting the book years after this incident is one thing the author did do correctly. This packs more information for the reader to discover as the conflict builds.

In this novel, a girl named Gretchen Muller is the adopted niece of Adolf Hitler. She has been raised to believe that her father died saving Hitler’s life, and as a result, she is now the favorite of all who follow Hitler. Without her father’s alleged sacrifice, she would not have close relations to the nation’s leader, and would not have the respect of the country. Although Gretchen has everything a young German girl could want, she still has doubts about what the National Socialist Party believes. In the beginning, she shows disagreement with the alleyway beating of a Jewish man that her cruel brother inflicted. She tries her best to hide it, but she cannot bring herself to hate all Jews. After already feeling torn, what could bring even more confusion into the mix? A handsome boy, of course!

Daniel Cohen is a Jewish reporter. He appears out of nowhere, and seems to know everything about Gretchen and her father. Gretchen is almost too lovestruck by the handsome boy to realize that he is telling her that her father didn’t really die saving Hitler. She then retreats into her old morals, feeling that all Jews are bad, because she feels Daniel is trying to take away the one thing her family has left to hold onto.

After her first meeting with Daniel, more stress and confusion enters Gretchen’s life as she has to give up her lifelong dream of being a doctor. Her mother is a single working mother who runs a boarding house, and can no longer pay the bills by herself. She advises Gretchen to drop out of school and get a job in a factory. Without finishing her education, Gretchen knows that she will never get to be a doctor. Desperately, she goes to Hitler for help. But he doesn’t see a woman's education as necessary, and offers her a job as a secretary to one of his Generals. “Why, I would imagine most girls your age would be eager to leave school behind and settle on a fine young man instead.” (Hitler, Page 52)

The above section is hard to interpret. Why would Gretchen give up her lifelong dream so quickly? As soon as Hitler offers her a job, she is slightly bummed, but there is no further mention of any remorse over the loss of her future. Either the author did this on purpose to make it seem as though the main character is a victim of a patriarchal society, or that she has been brainwashed all her life. However, it makes her look like a watery character with no backbone or goals of her own. This detail can strengthen why Gretchen only rebels when she has another man to depend on.

Gretchen is uncertain about Daniel for a while, until she randomly takes out her father’s jacket that he wore the night he died and notices something strange about it. Keep in mind, she’s had this jacket for many years, and the book claims that she took it out and smelled it fairly often. She’s just now realizing that there’s a bullet hole in the back, which means her father was not killed by the enemy, but by one of his own. You’d think this would be something she’d notice before she meets the handsome boy who makes her think for once.

After that, Gretchen and Daniel run off together, searching for clues for why her father was murdered. One would wonder what Daniel gets out of helping her. Running around unsupervised with a pretty, yet stupid girl in Nazi Germany sounds too good to be true for a teenage Jewish boy.

After investigation, the couple finds that after a gas attack in World War I, Hitler and her father were recovering at a hospital. They track down the doctor there, and the doctor admits that during this time he diagnosed Hitler as a psychopath. This information could have ruined Hitler's career, and Gretchen's father knew about it. Gretchen and Daniel are convinced that Hitler killed her father to keep the diagnosis a secret. Soon after, Hitler finds out about Gretchen’s disloyalty, and tracks the pair down. They barely make it out of Germany alive, and catch a train to Switzerland, with no idea what to do next.

This book was almost degrading to read. The author had no concept of grammar, or of reality. If anything, the author would be better off writing realistic fiction, because historical fiction is way over her head.

The author has exaggerated the character of Hitler, and needs to do more research on him. For example she wrote, “Hitler’s red Mercedes sat at the curb, it’s engine running.” (Page 51). If the author had done any research at all, she would have known that Hitler didn’t own a red Mercedes. He owned a black one. This is a clear example of the lack of effort on her part.

She also has a lot of nerve diagnosing Hitler as a psychopath. This might be far-fetched, considered what else we know about Hitler. The definition of Psychopath is a person suffering from chronic mental disorder with abnormal or violent social behavior, or a person with violent, aggressive behavior. This is contradicting to the majority of the rest of the book, as the author does her best to make Hitler look like a loving father figure to Gretchen. “Uncle Dolf kissed Gretchen’s hands. “Don’t look so downhearted, my child; it is all arranged.””( page 53)

If Hitler was truly a psychopath, he wouldn’t have been able to hide it so well under manners and controlled actions. Just because a person is a dictator doesn’t necessarily mean that he’s a psychopath. He might have been, but he also might not have. It’s not up for an author to boldly fantasize a novel around it.

The book describes the time period well, but it is poorly written, and sorely lacking in realistic qualities and emotions. It treats women as inferior. It is the time and place for this stigma. However, it is exaggerated and dragged to unrealistic levels. The main character is horrible and crudely undeveloped. This book is not reaching the audience it is intended for. It is a novel playing around with the past, not a historical fiction book someone wants facts from. It’s also intended for young adults, but it would be better suited for children.

I would not suggest this book to anyone who wants to learn anything about The National Socialist Party, the Holocaust, or Hitler. The author has exaggerated the character of Hitler, and needs to do more research on Him. She could also do with some writing classes, as well. 

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