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Monday, November 5, 2018

The Ragged Edge of Night by Olivia Hawker

Title: The Ragged Edge of Night
Author: Olivia Hawker
Publisher: 1st October 2018 by Lake Union Publishing
Pages: 340 pages
How I Read It: ARC book
Genre: historical fiction
My Rating: 4 crowns

For fans of All the Light We Cannot See, Beneath a Scarlet Sky, and The Nightingale comes an emotionally gripping, beautifully written historical novel about extraordinary hope, redemption, and one man’s search for light during the darkest times of World War II.
Germany, 1942. Franciscan friar Anton Starzmann is stripped of his place in the world when his school is seized by the Nazis. He relocates to a small German hamlet to wed Elisabeth Herter, a widow who seeks a marriage—in name only—to a man who can help raise her three children. Anton seeks something too—atonement for failing to protect his young students from the wrath of the Nazis. But neither he nor Elisabeth expects their lives to be shaken once again by the inescapable rumble of war.
As Anton struggles to adapt to the roles of husband and father, he learns of the Red Orchestra, an underground network of resisters plotting to assassinate Hitler. Despite Elisabeth’s reservations, Anton joins this army of shadows. But when the SS discovers his schemes, Anton will embark on a final act of defiance that may cost him his life—even if it means saying goodbye to the family he has come to love more than he ever believed possible.
My Thoughts

‘ ... in his mind, he walks backward through time, searching as he did before for the place where Germany went wrong, where we turned aside from our humanity.’

This is a most engaging read detailing the story of a former friar who, after his order is disbanded by the Nazis, answers an ad in a local paper to marry a needy widow with three children. The story follows the developing relationships of the family and how Anton faces many internal and external conflicts - leaving his celibacy behind, supporting a family that is not his own and how to quietly resist the Nazi regime.

It’s an interesting book and although centred around World War II, it does not contain much ongoing tension or drama, rather it’s a tale of relationships under extreme circumstances. It is always interesting to read of WWII events from the perspective of German resistors and added to that fact is, although a fictionalised retelling of events, it concerns actual people and events from the author’s husband’s family history. From that point of view, it is most appealing. There is accompanying research that assists in supporting the story and at times reads as an annotated guide to German history.

‘... this is not the sort of life anyone dreams of. Even Hitler, he thinks, must be surprised that he ever got so far—that it has all been so simple to take, to destroy. In his moments of despair—and there are many—Anton wonders whether God Himself ever dreamed it could come to this..’

This is undoubtedly a well written book mainly focusing around one man’s guilt as he struggles to adapt from his religious way of life lost, to start again in helping a family in need and also, to confront the horrors of Nazi atrocities. In that respect it is quite introspective with much internal dialogue as we travel along with Anton on his life journey. At times this reflectiveness gets a bit repetitive and drawn out, particularly in reference to the fate of the children he once taught. I also personally struggled with the widow/wife Elisabeth, as she made things so difficult for him and the guilt trips she laid on him, after all he had given up, was just wrong. The author’s attempt to create a subplot of espionage is not really that strong and only comes in the latter half of the book. The author’s note and political commentary at the end of the book has created quite a furore in the U.S and could/should have been omitted. It has just proven a distraction from a worthy tale.

‘The Ragged Edge of Night’ combines much to appreciate - resistance and romance - in its portrayal of a rural existence under the Third Reich and how simple acts of heroism can come from the most unlikely of places.

‘Anton can’t save all of Germany—he is only one man. But he can, he must, save this one small town.’

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

1 comment:

Mystica said...

This sounds like a very good story.