Munich in 1931 is a dangerous place, no matter who you are.
For Gretchen Muller, Hitler is ‘Uncle Dolf’ and he’s always been there for her throughout the turmoil of her family’s past. But no, as his hold over Germany strengthens, he will be forever changed in her eyes. She will do anything to uncover the truth, even at the risk of everything she’s ever known…
The blurb on the back of the book instantly had me intrigued, and I have to tell you once I started reading I found it hard to stop! So what’s it all about? Well Gretchen lives with her mother and her brother in a boarding house in Munich. Her mother runs the boarding house, their livelihood since the death of Gretchen’s father 8 years ago.
Her father was a member of the National Socialist Party and was a close friend of Adolf Hitler. He died a martyr, killed by bullets that should have struck Hitler. Her father’s death has ensured that the Mullers have the protection of Hitler and his party.
Gretchen has always called him Uncle Dolf. He’s always been there for her, bringing her gifts, teaching her about the arts, taking her for days out. He has educated her on the ways of the world; warned her about the dangers that the Jews pose to Germany. She has been brainwashed, although of course she doesn’t realise that.
Then one day she meets a Jew. A Jew who tells her that her father didn’t die so that Hitler may live; he was murdered. Gretchen’s world is turned upside down. Can she believe what this Jew is telling her? After all she has been well warned by Uncle Dolf as to how poisonous the Jews are. But if there’s even the slightest chance that it’s true, shouldn’t she find out? Shouldn’t she know the truth of her father’s death?
She knows that she absolutely cannot be seen talking to the Jew, who by the way has a name, Daniel, and seems really nice. So she proceeds to investigate her father’s death, in secrecy, with the help of Daniel. She uncovers far more than she ever expected and the whole foundation that she has built her life upon is broken. She’s been lied to. She’s been brainwashed, and Uncle Dolf certainly isn’t that kindly uncle that she always thought of him as.
Anne Blankman has certainly done her research for this novel. Although the Muller family, and various other characters, are purely fictitious, the story is built around real historical events. Personally, I think Blankman has done this beautifully. She has seemlessly combined fact and fiction, and for me, really captured how a young German girl raised under the Nationalist Socialist Party might feel.
The character of Gretchen is a fascinating one. Blankman develops this character beautifully from Hitler’s pet, a girl who has never spoken to a Jew, to a girl who realises that Jews are people too and that perhaps Hitler isn’t exactly who she thought he was.
I can’t recommend this book enough. I enjoyed the fast pace, the historical background, the mystery and psychological aspects of this book. In fact I am desperate to read the next one but we’ll have to wait until Spring 2015 for that.