Published by William Morrow on April 7, 2020
Source: the publisher
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“Meticulously researched and plotted like a noir thriller, The German Heiress tells a different story of WWII— of characters grappling with their own guilt and driven by the question of what they could have done to change the past.” —Jessica Shattuck, New York Times bestselling author of The Women in the Castle
For readers of The Alice Network and The Lost Girls of Paris, an immersive, heart-pounding debut about a German heiress on the run in post-World War II Germany.
Clara Falkenberg, once Germany’s most eligible and lauded heiress, earned the nickname “the Iron Fräulein” during World War II for her role operating her family’s ironworks empire. It’s been nearly two years since the war ended and she’s left with nothing but a false identification card and a series of burning questions about her family’s past. With nowhere else to run to, she decides to return home and take refuge with her dear friend, Elisa.
Narrowly escaping a near-disastrous interrogation by a British officer who’s hell-bent on arresting her for war crimes, she arrives home to discover the city in ruins, and Elisa missing. As Clara begins tracking down Elisa, she encounters Jakob, a charismatic young man working on the black market, who, for his own reasons, is also searching for Elisa. Clara and Jakob soon discover how they might help each other—if only they can stay ahead of the officer determined to make Clara answer for her actions during the war.
Propulsive, meticulously researched, and action-fueled, The German Heiress is a mesmerizing page-turner that questions the meaning of justice and morality, deftly shining the spotlight on the often-overlooked perspective of Germans who were caught in the crossfire of the Nazi regime and had nowhere to turn.
I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
There are a lot of World War II books out there, but this one stands out to me because it is one of the few that I have read with a German main character. Clara Falkenburg is the daughter of Nazi sympathizers. She was in charge of running her father’s iron works company. As the book opens, Clara is wanted by the Allies for war crimes that were committed while she worked for her father. She has decided to leave her city and travel to her best friend Elisa’s house several towns away, which is a huge risk. She is found and interrogated by a relentless British officer, but she manages to get away. From there, she is on a quest to not only find her way to Elisa, but also to unravel some pretty big Falkenburg family secrets.
The thing that I loved most about this story is the peek into what life was like in Germany after the war. I’d never given a lot of thought to how difficult it was for people to rebuild and get back to their normal lives. When the Allies came through, there was extensive damage to their infrastructure and many people essentially lost everything. Buildings were left in piles of rubble, fires burned buildings down to the ground. People starved. There was a black market for things that were needed, like food, fabric, and baby items. It makes total sense that the area and the economy would have had this major setback for many of its citizens, but I just hadn’t given it much thought. I loved being able to see what it was like in that place and time, even though it was heartbreaking too.
Clara was an interesting character. I wasn’t really certain whether or not I was supposed to empathize with her or not. I wasn’t sure if I wanted her to stay under the radar of the Allies or if I wanted her to get caught. She struck me as a complicated character because of her feelings versus her actions. (Do actions always speak louder than words?) Because of her complexity, it was a little bit harder to be 100% absorbed in what she was doing. She was likable enough, but for a long time, I wasn’t sure if I could trust her.
I enjoyed that my feelings were a little bit all over the place while I read. While Clara was heir to a fortune, much of the cast of this story were average people that did not directly take part in the goings-on of the war. Still, everyone was equally having to scramble to find the things that they needed, and they were all hungry.
I particularly liked Jakob, a young man selling and trading foods and goods on the black market. I liked the twists andthe family secrets. I liked the suspense. I liked that the story had a dark, dusty, sparse feel to it throughout in keeping with the war-torn landscape. This was a fascinating and thought-provoking look into post-war Germany, for all types of people.