Friday, February 28, 2020

Resistance Women, historical fiction about real life heroines in WWII Germany

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:

Wednesday, February 5th: Instagram: @allthebooksandchocolate
Thursday, February 6th: Orange County Readers
Monday, February 10th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Wednesday, February 12th: Instagram: @myreadingchronicles
Friday, February 14th: Booked J
Sunday, February 16th: Instagram: @nurse_bookie
Tuesday, February 18th: Really Into This
Wednesday, February 19th: Book by Book
Thursday, February 20th: Jathan & Heather
Friday, February 21st: View from the Birdhouse
Monday, February 24th: Diary of a Stay at Home Mom
Tuesday, February 25th: Blunt Scissors Book Reviews
Wednesday, February 26th: Instagram: @barkingaboutbooks
Thursday, February 27th: Instagram: @rendezvous_with_reading
Friday, February 28th: Instagram: @sarahandherbookshelves
Tuesday, March 3rd: Kahakai Kitchen
Friday, March 6th: A Chick Who Reads
TBD: Tuesday, February 11th: Books and Bindings


Birdhouse Books said...

I enjoyed your review and love the quote you chose. Hope your upcoming trip to France goes smoothly!

Sara Strand said...

I am in love with the quote you chose! Thank you for being on this tour. Sara @ TLC Book Tours

Judith said...

How fascinating about your grandfather--I followed the link! You must be so proud of him.
Jennifer Chiaverini, from my experience, is a novelist who is thorough about her historical research. I listened to a wonderful book in recent months, Christmas Bells, which is partly about the experiences of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's family just before and during the Civil War. Having researched this period extensively for a huge book project myself, I could find no fault with her presentation. Historical accuracy, a big plus for me.
So, I would be inclined to read Resistance Women and I'll put it on my list, because I, too, enjoy reading stories set during World War II. But I have been increasingly troubled lately by novelists who don't know well the countries or the history they're writing about. It bothers me immensely, because, until recently care was taken, both by authors and publishers, to "vet" historical fiction. I write a bit about this, particularly about Kate Quinn's novels in my post of February 7th.
I do wish you the very best with your plans for your upcoming travel. Especially so because you had to cancel your travel last year. I imagine you must be perplexed. I would be! Take care!

CLM said...

Thank you, Judith! My grandfather was very accomplished and lived to 90 so I knew him well. If you like, I will send this book to you when I finish (one chapter left). I agreed with you that there is so much sloppy research (or lack thereof). I saw a lot of this when I was an editor. I thought I had read one of Chiaverini's quilt books but am now less sure; Christmas Bells sounds good, especially for someone from Boston.

I think even with my WWII enthusiasm I may have overdosed, just a bit, although good to get the perspective from a different country. I do recommend While Still We Live if you have never read it.