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Verlin E. Sandlin
3.0 out of 5 starsLight at the End of the Tunnel
Reviewed in the United States on October 17, 2013
Ms. Kagan has reminded her readers of the horror and atrocities of the Third Reich. Editing could have been better, but the story line is strong and easily followed. Sexual situations at times possibly too graphic. The cruelty of Nazism is displayed honestly. Not for the squeamish.
5.0 out of 5 starsAnother excellant story well worth reading.
Reviewed in the United States on October 13, 2017
Remarkable story of love, heartache, fear and desperation. Petra had left her family and went with Han's, her German boyfriend, to go to housing being offered to pregnant girls. Hitler was doing an experiment to have the perfect blood line and German race, having homes available to girls with the perfect characteristics of blonde hair and blue eyes pregnant by German soldiers with blonde hair blue eyes. Petra's family had turned their back on her, for getting pregnant outside of marriage, and pregnant by a German soldier. Han's had left Petra at the housing, with the promise of marriage after he finished his required military service, only to have been killed serving his time in Russia. When the news arrived to Petra, she had become frightened that she would loose her baby, or the baby would be killed as well, if it was not perfect. Petra knew she had to escape, to save herself, but most of all her baby. Her escape was the beginning of desparate times. Petra's journey was more fortunate then some, but still separated from her family and not knowing if she would be captured or turned in. Finding a caring farmer and his wife turned Petra's life around. I feel the anquish in the trials they must go through, as well as celebrate the small joys. This is so worth reading, as it brings that era alive and hopefully, "We never forget". Ms Kagan brings the book alive. Well written, your heart feels it...
3.0 out of 5 starsNot much suspense but a good story.
Reviewed in the United States on March 23, 2017
A young Norwegian girl gets pregnant by a Nazi occupying soldier and family rejects her. So she leaved her home and goes to a program called Lebensborn where she can live and have her child for the Reich, even though she's no Nazi, nor is her conscripted fiance. When he is killed at the Russian front Petra runs away from the Lebensborn house, fearing for her child and herself. She is obviously pregnant now but runs into the countryside, away from anything Nazi, though she is now in Germany. Finally finding comfort and security in a barn, she sleeps and is found by the farmer and his wife. They are an older childless couple that take Petra in, ignoring the danger if found out. Eventually, the couple accepts Petra as their own, along with her infant son. Now along comes another, hiding out, but he is a Jew who was studying medicine. And Petra's son is sick. The story takes off from here with many possible directions. Overall, a pleasant read. Not much suspense but a good story.
5.0 out of 5 starsLove in at horrific time of our past.
Reviewed in the United States on July 7, 2019
A true lesson in history. The love story behind the gruesome background of the war flowed smoothly. Keeps your interest page after page.
Think, if you didn't actually live through this period in time, could you have made it through? Would you have had the courage to leave all, everything, behind? Would you have even recognized the horrors about to dawn? Could it happen again? Greed, corruption and a relentless pursuit of power will always exist in this world and too many people forget the lessons of the past.
3.0 out of 5 starsA light book about a heavy subject
Reviewed in the United States on December 31, 2013
This is not, as the blurb seems to suggest, a book about the Nazi “Lebensborn” program to engineer perfect Ayran children, a new master race. The only reason this program is included at all seems to be for the main character Petra to escape from it and face the odds on her own in the forest.
I found this book, both its content and writing, cliché. Or perhaps it’s intended to be a WWII parody of a fairy tale: the girl on the run all by herself in the woods, the kindly couple who take her in, the Jew fleeing the Nazis, the death camps, the contented wife who bakes bread and spaetzle for her loving husband, the pitiless Nazis. A retelling of well-known horrors of WWII Nazi Germany without true horror because it’s all been told before. The author has cherry-picked events of Nazi persecution of Jews and brushed over them lightly, with one notable exception when an important character is killed. The heroine’s reaction to death, horror, bad news is, “Oh my god,” which seems trite under the circumstances.
The book is mainly narrative which makes it a fast, easy read as otherwise I wouldn’t have finished reading it. When it comes to reactions or emotions, the author takes the easy way out. “Oh, dear God, no.” “I don’t know what to do.” “Her heart pounded.” “The two women were shocked to see the buildings that lay in ruins throughout the city when they arrived.”
The author would be disappointed to know that, despite her intent, this reader could not connect deeply enough with the characters to relate to their emotion. I felt as though I was reading an introductory summary of the Holocaust and some tidbits about a few people who happened to live at that time. I believe the author may have tried to cover too much ground and too great of a period of time. I never FELT the emotions of the characters or the horrors of the period, rather I simply read about them. This was true even for the romance... I read ABOUT it, rather than felt it. All in all this was a disappointing read.
This novel is written in a sweet, simple style which made me predict a happily-ever-after fairytale ending right from the very start of reading it. Was I correct? That's for new readers to find out. Its subject matter is about the holocaust, but still it had that feel of a story that possessed princes and wicked godmothers in its pages. After all, fairytales have horror and nasty people in them, too. There was some tension, especially towards the end, and some very cruel people doing atrocious things. But rather than always dwell on what the bad guys were up to, it showed up evil through concentrating more on the good that existed in humanity during this terrible era. It became an interesting read for me as the book progressed due to its perspective on the general German population and how they secretly felt about Nazi infiltration and Hitler's impact on their lives.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 22, 2012
A Flicker of Light is set in Germany during the Second World War, and against this dark background, there is indeed a flicker of light. Roberta Kagan has created believable characters who don't give up hope, however bad things seem.
A pregnant girl escapes the Lebensborn program, and finds herself with a kind older couple who adopt her as a niece.
A Jewish doctor in training is forced out of his life thanks to Nazi legislation and ends up living in the forests of Germany.
The story is how the story of these two people interlink and it is beautifully written, not shying away from the more gruesome parts of the war - the human experimentation, rape, murder. It is an emotional read about a part of Nazi doctrine that I knew little about, and so was also educational for me.
I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has an interest in historical fiction - although make sure you have an afternoon to spare, I couldn't put it down!
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on February 14, 2016
This book jumps about far too much. First we have a story about the Nazi birth programme, then the persecution of the Jews, then a love story, then a story about concentration camps, then......... The story also moves from place to place in Germany. Some of the story is in Munich, some of it in Berlin. The author moves the characters with ease from one area to another. Has the author looked at a map? Germany during the last months of the war. Don't think so. A few technical errors too. How do the characters move from Berlin to Munich in a jeep? In one of the unneccessary sex scenes the German soldier undoes his zipper. No he didn't. Buttons maybe.
5.0 out of 5 starsMoving, sad, happy, horrifying, humbling, makes you grateful you weren't a non-German in Germany during Hitler's reign.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 18, 2012
This book was billed as a romance, but for most of the tale, it wasn't so, and though it does end in an incredible and gratifying HEA, it is a book that will put you through many emotions. You might want to have some tissues to hand. SLIGHT SPOILER ALERT: there are many, many instances of truly upsetting happenings in this tale. I've gone on to mention two of those happenings in the next 2 bulky paragraphs.
It seemed as if the tale was part history lesson, part fiction mixed in with said lesson.
When I came to the foreword, I was not sure if what I was reading was 'artistic licence' or the plain hard truth, so I looked up Lebensborn and discovered that this tale had a very real - but totally foreign to me, as a 60's born person - background in some very unpleasant and upsetting truths. If you have lost a child, or are very sensitive, it may be best not to check Lebensborn out too much, and to maybe reconsider whether you should read this tale or not. It does contain one particularly shocking and upsetting part regarding an 'imperfect birth', though this is fleeting.
Turning to the tale itself, the blurb that amazon offers is only part of the tale. Petra's life, her courage, her desperation, her determination to protect her child, her strength in the face of her many, many losses, her ability to love, and to go on living despite said losses, are the main part. However, the people who come into her life, those that leave her life, the realities of German SS rule are all very much part of this excellent tale. I didn't expect to see it end happily for at least 4 people, and I do feel that the 2/3 pages or so leading to a rape scene at the end of the novel were a particularly upsetting part of it, and I did wonder why the author had felt that she needed to include that, as the female character was such a minor one.
The courage of the people 'involved' with Petra was humbling. Their continuing generosity, trusting natures and selflessness despite what their lives were under SS rule, were absolutely amazing, incredible and full of the goodness that human nature is capable of. It showed that not all Germans were Jew-haters and that not all Germans approved of Hitler and his rule, including some officers within the SS.
This is a book that needs to be read; however be prepared to be upset. It made me grateful for what I have, and that I am lucky enough to be alive now, and not when this tale was set.
Set towards the end of the last war, in the German countryside, this story starts with a Norwegian girl who became pregnant by a young German soldier, whose parents disowned her for her association with the enemy, and so she went to one of the Homes in Germany set up for the birth of Aryan babes destined to become the Master race. After the death of her fiancé on the Russian Front, she escapes from the Home and finds refuge with an elderly childless German couple who treat her as a daughter. This part of the story deals with the life of rural Germany during the War, with farmers having to give up most of their crops to the Germans in exchange for prisoners being used as labour to get the harvest in. They are powerless to prevent the cruelty they see on a daily basis. Petra has her baby and stays with the couple. Meanwhile we are introduced to medical student Aaron Gold,a man of integrity in spite of a poor home life. He is taken under the wing of a local doctor who treats him as a son and pays for his university education -cut short when Jewish students are thrown out of universties. He refuses to escape to USA with his mentor, asking for his girlfriend to be taken instead. She later marries someone else. Aaron meets up with Petra after he takes shelter in the barn on the farm where she lives, and later saves her life when she contracts measles. He has to leave when the SS bring prisoners to the farm and eventually ends up in Dachau after he is captured. The war ends and although the ending isn't totally happy -so many deaths along the way - it does have happiness in it. The book still has a fair few mistakes, as if it has been translated? The story is totally predictable and there are no surprises I think there was an opportunity to tell more about the Lebensborn Homes and the glimpses were tantalising - maybe the subject for a future book? I gave this book 3 stars as it is certainly OK, but not well enough written for 4 stars.
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on January 27, 2017
I did enjoy this book, but having read some of Roberta Kagan's other books I found this one more 'romantic' as if written to appeal more to female chic-lit loving readers. As others have pointed out there were some annoying typos but I've read worse in that sense. There were of course the hard hitting scenes of Nazi cruelty that Ms Kagan has researched thoroughly and is her stock-in-trade. She rightly understands that knowing what happened goes a long way to avoid it happening again and therefore this has to be kept alive. The characters were largely believable and definitely likeable, so if you want a good romance amid a traumatic background then this book is for you.