Wednesday, June 19, 2019

World at War: Resistance Women

Resistance Women. Jennifer Chiaverini. 2019. 608 pages. [Source: Library]

First sentence from the prologue: The heavy iron doors open and for a moment Mildred stands motionless and blinking in the sunlight, breathless from the sudden rush of cool, fresh air caressing her face and lifting her hair.

Premise/plot: Resistance Woman is a fictional novel inspired by actual people and events. Many of the characters--Arvid and Mildred Harnack, Martha Dodd, Adam and Greta Kuckhoff, for example--were real people living in Germany and later Nazi Germany who were active members of the Resistance. (Arvid has a famous cousin, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.) A few fictional characters people the novel as well including Sara Weitz and her family. (The author wanted one of the narrators to be Jewish.) The book does alternate narrators. Mildred. Greta. Sara. Sometimes Martha. (Martha does not arrive in Berlin, Germany, until later. She leaves Germany before the war starts.) This isn't a novel where the author has a lot of control about the fate of her characters. (Some might argue that an author rarely has control about the fate of their characters--that stories tell themselves and unfold in the writing process.)

My thoughts: This is a tragic novel about women who to some degree chose to stay and resist. (Sara didn't so much choose to stay.) The novel spans decades--1929-1946. It was a turbulent time--to say the least. Mildred was an American who fell head over heels in love with a German who was studying in the United States. Greta, one of her friends, was also a German studying in the United States. They would reconnect in Germany many years after first meeting. Greta had an opportunity to stay in England, but chose to return to Germany to fight against evil instead of fleeing from it. Mildred could have left her husband and returned to the States--she was an American citizen. But she didn't want to leave her husband behind. Her home is where he was. Together no matter what--that's what she wanted.

The novel is a compelling read but not always an easy one. There is nothing light and breezy about this one. Their lives were on the line. 

© 2019 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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