Monday, April 22, 2019

Second Chances, by Scott Craig (author), Bill Nevitt (narrator)

Scott Craig, April 2019

I have some mixed feelings about this book. It's historical fiction. It's suspense fiction.

It's a romance novel set, partly, in a concentration camp in the Second World War.

Inge Klein and Fritz Wagner are childhood friends, but she's Jewish. Fritz not only isn't Jewish; his dead father's cousin is ReichsfΓΌhrer Heinrich Himmler. And Himmler is very interested in Fritz's mother.

The story starts on Kristallncht, the November 1938 destruction of Jewish businesses and assaults on any Jews found out and about, in Germany and German-annexed territory. Fritz and Inge are fourteen. Inge's father Jacob Klein is a lawyer, and while his ability to practice had already been restricted, he's still out at his office when the violence starts on the evening of November 8. Fritz takes the risk of finding and bringing him back when he's late. Fritz finds Jacob, but he has already been badly beaten, and though they do get home that night, Jacob dies of his injuries the next day.

When it becomes necessary for the Kleins to go into hiding, the Wagners successfully hide them in their apartment for months, even despite regular visits from Himmler. Fritz has made contacts with the underground, and is able to get two extra ration cards, so that, by shopping in two different stores in different neighborhoods, his mother is able to buy enough food for all four of them. Of course things keep getting more stressed and difficult, and the Kleins finally have to try to leave Germany.

Eventually, of course, it ends badly, and Inge winds up in Buchenwald,

Where Fritz, now in the SS, given a "safe" assignment by Himmler, is the commandant's aide.

So, yeah, this is a romance novel set in Buchenwald, between a prisoner and the commandant's aide.

There are so many problems with this, and yet I like Inge and Fritz.

That doesn't mean this really works for me.

This is roughly the first half of the novel, and then the war ends, and they become separated and Fritz uses a false name, and we follow Inge building a new life in America, believing Fritz is dead. He's not, of course, and what happens when we pick up with Inge fifteen years later is as well down as you could want it to be, with the triumph of love over adversity, separation, and seriously crossed stars.

And yet. A romance novel about a prisoner in Buchenwald and the commandant's aide. It's as well done as you could hope for it to be, and if, obviously, somewhat sugar-coated, still not sugar-coated enough that it didn't cause me serious distress and a need to pause and go read something else for a while. We're not shown what's happening away from Inge and Fritz, but it's implied pretty darned strongly.

It's well done, and yet I'm not comfortable with it.

That's all I can really say.

The narrator is good. A strong, clear, pleasant voice.

I received a free copy of this audiobook from the a narrator, and am reviewing it voluntarily.

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