Title: Daughter of the Reich
Author: Louise Fein
Genre: Adult, Historical Fiction
Published: May 12th, 2020 (William Morrow Paperbacks)
Synopsis: As the dutiful daughter of a high-ranking Nazi officer, Hetty Heinrich is keen to play her part in the glorious new Thousand Year Reich. But she never imagines that all she believes and knows about her world will come into stark conflict when she encounters Walter, a friend from the past, who stirs dangerous feelings in her. Confused and conflicted, Hetty doesn’t know whom she can trust and where she can turn to, especially when she discovers that someone has been watching her.
Realizing she is taking a huge risk—but unable to resist the intense attraction she has for Walter—she embarks on a secret love affair with him. Together, they dream about when the war will be over and plan for their future. But as the rising tide of anti-Semitism threatens to engulf them, Hetty and Walter will be forced to take extreme measures.
Will the steady march of dark forces destroy Hetty’s universe—or can love ultimately triumph…?
Propulsive, deeply affecting, and inspired by the author’s family history, Daughter of the Reich is a mesmerizing page-turner filled with vivid characters and a meticulously researched portrait of Nazi Germany. A riveting story of passion, courage and morality, Louise Fein introduces a bold young woman determined to tread the treacherous path of survival and freedom, showing readers the strength in the power of love and reminding us that the past must never be forgotten.
Thank you to the publisher, HarperCollins, and Edelweiss for providing me with an eARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Hetty Heinrich is the perfect German daughter. With her father working his way up the ranks of the SS and her brother set to join the Luftwaffe, Hetty has been raised to be faithful to the Nazi ideology, and never thinks to question it until the day she runs into someone from her past – Walter Keller, a childhood friend estranged due to his being Jewish, who once saved her life. As they begin to spend more time together, fully aware of how risky it is, Hetty begins to realize that whatever she has been taught are all lies and she becomes determined to do something to fight it. But anti-Semitism is on the rise across Germany, and when it becomes so bad as to threaten Walter’s life and any plans the two of them had for the future, Hetty is faced with some overwhelming decisions to make, conscious that one mistake could mean the end of everything for both of them.
This is my third or fourth World War II novel this year, yet each one has been so unique! Daughter of the Reich was no different, and provided some perspective from an angle I’ve never read about before – seeing the rise of the Nazi regime through the eyes of a girl whose family was highly placed, showing how the students in German schools at the time were brainwashed into believing the lies of the Nazis right from childhood. Novels set in this time period are rarely written from what is essentially the Nazi POV and it was certainly quite a change. The meticulous research that must have gone into this book is evident in the detail and it all comes together in what I found to be a horrifying, yet captivating read.
This entire narrative was from Hetty’s POV, and while she was definitely an engaging narrator, the initial third of the book which dragged a lot. The character development made up for this though, and every last one of them felt so real and interesting, and it took little effort to become emotionally invested in their fates. What I would have liked to see more of was Hetty’s POV following the last chapter instead of the near fifty year jump to the epilogue. We have to piece together the intermediate events from that single chapter and a few letters therein, but so many of those events would have made for wonderful reading material, as it sounds like Hetty led a rather eventful life in those years. As we saw the rise of the regime throughout the story, it would have been even more interesting to see its worst years and ultimate fall through Hetty’s eyes.
Of course, given the setting and events surrounding the time period this is set in, this was far from an easy read, and it is the type of book that will leave you thinking long after you’ve finished reading it. On the other hand, it’s not nearly as disturbing as some of the other WWII books I’ve read, so YA readers may enjoy it. I’m an eternal optimist when it comes to serious stories like this one, so I was still hoping for a happy ending, but it turned out to be more bittersweet. I’m really curious to know if this was inspired by a real-life story and if so, whose. Daughter of the Reich is a powerful, moving novel that portrays how important it is to make a stand for what you believe in and how far a little kindness can go in such times. I would highly recommend it to everyone, even if historical fiction isn’t usually your cup of tea.
Daughter of the Reich releases on May 12th, 2020.
Do you plan to read this book? Let me know in the comments below!