I have only read one of Aimee Runyan’s books but I adored it! I have had the others are on my TBR list and she is always one that I keep an eye on when I see new historical fiction coming out. When I saw this book I was instantly intrigued! A school to make the perfect German bride?! What in the world? I knew it was one that I couldn’t pass up as it would no doubt explore a plotline and history that I never even imagined before!
One of the things that always stands out about Runyan’s books is the attention to historical detail. Historical fiction writers often walk a delicate line between adding lots of interesting (or interesting to them) historical detail that will give the story teeth and context but at the same time, not adding so much historical detail that it bores readers. Runyan always does a great job at striking a good balance of both historical detail and facts but not so many that it becomes bogged down with details and slows the story.
I loved that this book really looks at the behind the scenes life of the German people under Nazi rule—-especially the female perspective. I was so intrigued by this one before I even received my copy in the mail! I saved it for my trip to Arizona so I could have plenty of time to savor it and enjoy all the details without feeling like I had to rush through it, seriously vacation reading is the best for books like this! I had plenty of time to read it and savor it but at the same time I did read it quickly because it was an engaging story!
In this intriguing historical novel, a young woman who is sent to a horrific “bride school” to be molded into the perfect Nazi wife finds her life forever intertwined with a young Jewish woman about to give birth.
As the war begins, Hanna Rombauer, a young German woman, is sent to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother’s death. Thrown into a life of luxury she never expected, Hanna soon finds herself unwillingly matched with an SS officer. The independence that her mother lovingly fostered in her is considered highly inappropriate as the future wife of an up-and-coming officer and she is sent to a “bride school.” There, in a posh villa on the outskirts of town, Hanna is taught how to be a “proper” German wife. The lessons of hatred, prejudice, and misogyny disturb her and she finds herself desperate to escape.
For Mathilde Altman, a German Jewish woman, the war has brought more devastation than she ever thought possible. Torn from her work, her family, and her new husband, she fights to keep her unborn baby safe. But when the unthinkable happens, Tilde realizes she must hide. The risk of discovery grows greater with each passing day, but she has no other options.
When Hanna discovers that Tilde hiding near the school, she knows she must help her however she can. For Tilde, fear wars with desperation. The women must take extraordinary risks to save the lives of mother and baby.
Will they both be able to escape with their lives and if they do, what kind of future can they possibly hope for? (summary from Goodreads)
I will be honest here—-I really just wanted to read about Hanna’s story. When I read the summary I had zero interest in Mathilde’s (Tilde) story and only wanted to know about Hanna. I found the horror of being sent to a ‘bride school’ to make woman a desirable companion for a German SS Officer so compelling and terrible that I just wanted to read about that. Initially I just wanted to skip over all of Tilde’s story in favor of reading just Hanna’s but quickly I was drawn into her story as well and found that together each of the women’s stories made the novel exciting and engaging with enough drama and detail to satisfy readers. Readers will no doubt find a lovely story featuring two women in very different circumstances that come together to tell a moving tale.
Prior to this book I never gave much thought to what German women did when it came to marriage. It’s easier to consider German SS officers as being incapable of love or relationships and it’s easier to think of German woman as NOT marrying German officers at all! I mean who would willingly marry a Nazi? But this book really explores what limited options women has at this time and what kinds of things they were often forced to do. I really loved that the author went with this plotline. It was interesting, fresh and unique! I think fans of historical fiction will find this book to be a beacon of interesting light in a sea of WWII novels. If you pass on historical fiction set in WWII, this is one you do NOT want to miss, say yes to it and add to your TBR. It’s unique and tells a different side of history.
While I loved the historical detail and the two narratives that added so much interest and intrigue I did wish there was more about the actual school itself. I was most interested in reading all about what this school was like etc. Beyond just the basics we didn’t get much detail about the school but it didn’t really change my opinion of the novel as the storytelling and writing were strong. I just wish we had more info and/or context about the school. I loved Runyan’s novel Across the Winding River, but I think this one was actually better. It had an interesting and forward moving plot with lots to enjoy and read. If you love historical fiction no doubt you will have seen this one floating around, do not miss it!
Book Info and Rating
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 26th 2022 by William Morrow & Company
ISBN 0063094207 (ISBN13: 9780063094208)
Free review copy provided by publisher and author, William Morrow, in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and in no way influenced.
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genre: historical fiction