October 23, 2009

The Kommandant's Girl by Pam Jenoff

I have actually been reading quite a bit lately, but nothing really inspired me to write a review until now.

I began reading this just after finishing Breaking Dawn, which was un-put-downable. Usually after a book like that, the rebound book is like having a "fun size" box of milk duds for dessert after an incomparable gourmet meal (although in general I consider the Twilight saga to be more like a tub of bon bons than any other food). Not this time. I read Breaking Dawn over two days. I read The Kommandant's Girl over about a six hour period, and it's only about 300 pages shorter. Yes, only.

The Kommandant's Girl is the story of Emma, a young married Jewish woman in Poland at the start of WWII. When Germany invades, her politically outspoken husband is forced to go underground. For her own protection, Emma assumes a new identity and has to pretend to be an unmarried, orphaned schoolteacher. When the intimidating Nazi Kommandant offers her a job in his office, Emma is terrified but also recognizes the opportunity to spy for the resistance and thereby help her husband. Her espionage takes her further into areas of danger and betrayal than she ever could have dreamed, and she must come to grips with her attraction to a man responsible for the horrible deaths of many of her friends and neighbors.

I've read books with similar plots and settings, and those that have been around The Book Nook for awhile will recognize parallels to Trudy's Promise. But this book has something more. The author, Pam Jenoff, is an expert on Poland and the Holocaust. Unlike many writers who are intrigued by such subject matter, Jenoff doesn't need to rely on sentimentality or conjecture to give her work poignancy. She simply writes the story as it could have happened, based on real Historical events, with a sincerity and accuracy that requires no frills. So this book is more raw and more gripping, in my opinion, than similar books I've read in the past.

I highly recommend this for anyone interested in this time period, as well as anyone who just likes a book that will keep them enthralled to the very end.


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