Published by William Morrow on May 14, 2019
Source: the publisher
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From the New York Times bestselling author of Mrs. Lincoln’s Dressmaker, an enthralling historical saga 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 brilliant 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.
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.
Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini features four women as well as their families and their significant others as they resist Hitler and the Nazis from the inside.
- Mildred is an American educator living in Germany with her German husband;
- Sara is a German Jew and one of Mildred’s students;
- Greta is a German writer who used to study at the same American university as Mildred;
- Martha is the daughter of the American Ambassador of Germany; her position affords her many contacts and makes her a great asset to the resistance
These women are part of a large network of resistance that works feverishly to expose Hitler’s true intentions to the rest of the world.
It was so interesting and sad to me to learn of the increasing frustration and loss of hope that the Germans (those that were not sympathetic to the Nazis) felt when they learned that the United States and the rest of the world would not be rushing to their aid to free them from Hitler’s cruelty. They were surprised, at first, to realize that the world didn’t know of the extent of Hitler’s cruelty; it became increasingly apparent as the story progressed that the Nazis were spending a lot of time and money covering up their actions and their plans. SO!! in the years building up to what would become World War II-while many of the German Jews and other citizens were deciding to emigrate for various reasons-some decided to stay and resist, and try to expose Hitler’s true self to the rest of the world.
They knew the dangers and the risks, but they did the work anyway.
Resistance Women is a long book-my print copy is about 600 pages. So honestly, I think it isn’t a small decision to read this one. And you should know that it isn’t a quick read either. This is an immersive story, well-researched and full of detail. There are a lot of names on these pages, although the four women and their immediate families are the most important, so it can be a little daunting if you try to race through it. I recommend taking your time with it and really taking it in because it is rewarding.
Where I feel like it really differs from other WWII fiction is: the slow pace and lengthy story really helped me settle in with these women and their narrative, so when the Nazis began to strip away the rights of the Jewish people and the Germans, I really felt it. And I felt it more and more as additional rights and belongings were taken away. I feel like this story brought me closer to understand how they were just exhausted as a group during that time, because I can see more than ever how they lost a little bit here, and then a little bit more, and then a little bit more, and more, and more until eventually they were seen as nothing in the eyes of Hitler and his totalitarian administration, AND in the eyes of their fellow countrymen. Their own neighbors and coworkers. Their previous friends. I think this book lays down those feelings of “stripping-away” superbly because of the way it is told.
It also tells the story of defiance and resilience and boldness in adversity, let me make that clear. These were very brave people.
I love the way that these are regular citizens in the resistance. These are the perspectives of women out in the community with small threads of connection in the beginning, but they make that work for them and their network grows into something that gathers, translates, and sends out information in surprisingly large amounts. I’m impressed and astounded and humbled by all these people were able to do, and I continuously asked myself while I read if I could have been so brave.
Most of us know how things ended up for many of these people during the 1930’s and 1940’s, so it isn’t really spoiling anything to say that not everyone gets a happy ending here. In fact, we find out a very small part of the ending in the prologue. But the story is remarkable and I wonder if other books by Ms. Chiaverini are like this one? As someone who absolutely lives for history and historical fiction, I very clearly need to start reading more of her work.