I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
I was so excited to start this book. The cover had me entranced with it's beauty, and the premise had me very excited. I thought of how amazing this book must be, to deal with all these different elements! Set in Nazi Germany, Gretchen Müller is a German girl like any other. Except her father was murdered and her "uncle" is Dolf, as in Adolfo Hitler.
I was expecting a very twisted story of a girl who was the niece to Hitler, and how she must have lived her life brainwashed into Nazi idealogy. I figured she would fall in love with a Jewish guy and by the end question her long held beliefs. I also figured there would be a murder mystery involved as well. All of this against a backdrop of Germany during the period of time culminating in Hitler's rise to power. Unfortunately, I simply couldn't finish this book. I went from enjoying the first chapter and seeing the promise, to being more and more disappointed with each passing page. I'm going to try to explain why:
The main reason I think this didn't work was because of what I call "busy" syndrome in a book. When the story has too many elements to juggle, it can be a huge problem. The book can become too busy if we go from one plot point to another, or one character to another and another. The reader can get confused. On the flip side, the elements may not be overwhelming but underwhelming instead. In my experience with this book it was the latter. Each prospect gleamed in the blurb/synopsis was stretched too think or wasn't fleshed out enough at all.
For example, Gretchen was a German, Jew-hating girl brought up to idolize Hitler. After believing this for many years she meets a Jewish boy and instantly becomes infatuated with him. Really? Because someone who believed in something for so many years - and even has a girl classmate who she admitted she "wanted to like" but didn't even look at or befriend - suddenly has a crush on a Jewish boy. I just didn't buy it, it felt too contrived. I would've preferred her friendship to develop with the Jewish classmate first, and then for her to completely question her core beliefs, well, that takes time. It doesn't happen in an instant and when it happened suddenly I was put off.
Gretchen is also deathly afraid of her brother. He pulls pranks on her. Yes, pranks. He hidees her clothes, jumps out at her, etc. But the way she described him I thought he was raping her. No, just scaring her like any brother does. Granted, her brother does have serious issues and he does end up doing some sick stuff to her, I felt it was downplayed because in the beginning she seemed to make a huge deal of nothing.
Let me also say how much I disliked the character of Gretchen herself. I know not every heroine is going to have admirable attributes. It's important to have flaws, but to be consistent with them as well. She'd be flawed on one page and then overcome it on another. She's incredibly naïve, kind of dim (you haven't figured out yet after Dolf proved to you several times he won't go against your brother?), weak willed, and wishy washy. I just didn't really like her half the time. She seemed like a frail little doll who couldn't think for herself, which is what I expected, fine...but then she would suddenly do something completely (seemingly) out of character; like flirt and touch the Jewish guy she just met. It just didn't add up.
It's very rare for me to read 1/2 of an entire book and put it away unfinished. I rarely mark books DNF, and I can't remember the last time I didn't just suck it up and finish at the halfway mark. So what was different this time? It's summer. I'm reading a ton of fun books and doing a bunch of buddy reads I have scheduled. I'm also catching up on so,e review books, but mainly I'm looking to enjoy myself by reading some of the large number of books on my bought-TBR shelves. How can I continue to read a book I'm not enjoying when I have so many other books waiting? Well, I can't. I know a lot of you loved this book. I tried, but it just wasn't for me.