Berlin in 1933 is in upheaval. Eleven-year-old Carla von Ulrich struggles to understand the tensions disrupting her family as Hitler strengthens his grip on Germany. Into this turmoil steps her mother’s formidable friend and former British MP, Ethel Leckwith, and her student son, Lloyd, who soon learns for himself the brutal reality of Nazism. He also encounters a group of Germans resolved to oppose Hitler – but are they willing to go so far as to betray their country? Such people are closely watched by Volodya, a Russian with a bright future in Red Army Intelligence.
The international clash of military power and personal beliefs that ensues will sweep over them all as it rages from Cable Street in London’s East End to Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, from Spain to Stalingrad, from Dresden to Hiroshima.
As with the first installment of this series, I was blown away by the effortless way Follett is able to weave his story. The German, British, Russian, and American characters all overlap in believable ways and add their various perspectives to such a tumultuous period of history.
My favorite new character in this installment was Carla von Ulrich. That said, I really wish this book would have centered around her more. She opens the book, I instantly fell in love with her, and found myself itching for every time her POV would come up, then being a bit disappointed at how quickly it was over. While I enjoyed Llyod’s POV almost as much, I was not as enamored of he and Daisy’s romance acting as the central romantic entanglement of the story. I wanted Carla and Werner’s story so much more and would have really liked to see that relationship more deeply. Part of that I think is because American and British perspectives are what I know the most about. I love the variations between all the German characters and how they dealt with Nazism and that’s what I was craving from this story. I would have been much more satisfied with Carla and Werner appearing more, and a POV from Werner – though I kind of understand why Follett chose to tell his story from various other characters, but I felt so detached from him,and he was one of the bravest characters in this.
Another complaint I have for this is that I would have really appreciated at least a mention of the Japanese Internment Camps in the U.S. Concentration and Extermination camps under the Nazi’s were similarly glanced over, but there were references and common remarks about people being taken away and no one knowing where they ended up. Internment Camps were completely ignored. I felt this stemmed from Follett’s focus on the political arena of the war, most of the book focused on 1933-1941, with mention of major events for the remaining years. I understand this, but I was still a bit disappointed at yet another WWII story ignoring the moral questions Interment and Concentration camps rose.
Anyway, beyond those couple critiques, I really enjoyed this book. It was one of those books that I couldn’t get out of my mind. When I wasn’t reading I was thinking about reading, and when I was reading hours disappeared without notice. This is quickly becoming my favorite HF series!