Title: Resistance Women
Author: Jennifer Chiaverini
Publication: William Morrow, trade paperback, 2020 (originally published 2019)
Genre: Historical Fiction
Plot: From the New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, a historical novel that recreates the danger, romance, and sacrifice of an era and brings to life one courageous, passionate American—Mildred Fish Harnack—and her circle of women friends who waged a clandestine battle against Hitler in Nazi Berlin.
After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate. As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime.
For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences. Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.
My Impressions: Everyone who knows me is familiar with my love of books set during World War II and, in particular, the work done by women in times of war. Most of the WWII books I read are set in England or France so it is always refreshing to read one with a different setting. This provided a vivid look at Germany just before and during the war, featuring four brave and strong women, three historical and one fictional, who try to fight Hitler from within. I had read a little about Martha Dodd, daughter of the US Ambassador, and here she comes across as frivolous and reckless, rather than charming. However, I did like the other characters, American Mildred who married a German and never seems to have seriously thought of abandoning him and returning home; Greta, who studied in Wisconsin, and loved the intellectual companionship of university life, but can barely scrape together a living as a writer when she returns to Germany; and Sara (not a real character like the others), who starts out as Mildred’s student and as a Jew is the most vulnerable as the Nazis rise to power. Together with the men in their lives, they undertake dangerous espionage to bring Hitler down, aware that the Gestapo is watching them.
I was unfamiliar with Mildred’s story but interested to read that her husband came to the United States on a Rockefeller Fellowship just as my grandfather did in 1928. Unlike Arvid Harnack, he did not return to his native Hungary (if he had, I wouldn’t be here!). The book also reminded me of The Women in the Castle which also provided a different perspective on Nazi Germany but this provided more detail on how these women actually spent their days and was even darker. Although at times it was hard to keep the characters straight and the vast amount detail about their everyday lives prevented me from feeling engaged with the actual character, it was worth reading just to learn about Mildred Harnack, and I enjoyed the depiction of intellectual German society before it was brutally ended.
Favorite Quote: "This could never happen in America. A nation that elected Franklin Delano Roosevelt would never elect a madman populist."
Off the Blog: It’s coronavirus 24/7 and I hope for everyone’s sake it can be contained. Selfishly, I also hope it doesn’t ruin my forthcoming trip to France which got postponed from last year when my mother broke her pelvis.
Purchase Links: HarperCollins * Barnes & Noble * IndieBound * Amazon
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher and TLC Book Tours for review purposes. Please visit other stops on the tour below: