This is an excellent novel by an author who said of WWII, “I’ve always found it a tragic, terrifying and humbling subject”.
All those emotions are deftly placed here about the true White Rose group (which I had never heard of) who were one of the most famous civilian resistance movements that developed within Nazi Germany.
Natalya Petrovich is a teenager and we meet her on the morning after the terrible Kristallnacht in November 1938 when the Nazis began to burn shops and buildings belonging to Jewish people and to move forward across Munich to take over with Hitler in charge. Natalya and her friend Lisa Koble are Russians – not Jewsish – but Natalya’s father works as an apothecary for a Jewish employer. That morning his business lies in ruins and the seriousness of what the future may hold begins to occur to the girls.
We move forward to 1942 where Natalya is now a volunteer nurse for the German Red Cross heading to the Russian Front with her friend Greta.
They meet soldiers, Willi, Alex and Hans. Hans Scholl and his sister Sophie who will enter the story later were real people, part of the student group at Munich University who under the leadership of their philosophy lecturer formed the White Rose group. Natalya decides to join after seeing for herself the cruelty of Nazi soldiers when she is trying to save lives.
When she again meets Garrick Adler who was fatefully around on the very morning Natalya observed the Kristallnacht destruction, we wonder, can she trust him as she becomes more politically active?
There is immense tragedy and death in the plot as you would expect from a novel about the inside of Germany where everyone is trying to be ‘the perfect German’ in the face of Nazi supremacy. A brave tale well told with excellent character portrayal using real people.
I learnt a lot. There was happiness eventually and Natalya was extremely able to escape some serious situations in which, as a traitor, she was being watched by the Gestapo.
A superb personal read and lots for book club readers to discuss at this time that is commemorating the anniversary of WWII.
Philipa Coughlan 5/4*
The Traitor by V S Alexander
978-1-4967-2039-9 Harper Collins UK One More Chapter Imprint Paperback February 2020