After Wisconsin graduate student Mildred Fish marries brilliant German economist Arvid Harnack, she accompanies him to his German homeland, where a promising future awaits. In the thriving intellectual culture of 1930s Berlin, the newlyweds create a rich new life filled with love, friendships, and rewarding work—but the rise of a malevolent new political faction inexorably changes their fate.
As Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party wield violence and lies to seize power, Mildred, Arvid, and their friends resolve to resist. Mildred gathers intelligence for her American contacts, including Martha Dodd, the vivacious and very modern daughter of the US ambassador. Her German friends, aspiring author Greta Kuckoff and literature student Sara Weitz, risk their lives to collect information from journalists, military officers, and officials within the highest levels of the Nazi regime.
For years, Mildred’s network stealthily fights to bring down the Third Reich from within. But when Nazi radio operatives detect an errant Russian signal, the Harnack resistance cell is exposed, with fatal consequences.
Inspired by actual events, Resistance Women is an enthralling, unforgettable story of ordinary people determined to resist the rise of evil, sacrificing their own lives and liberty to fight injustice and defend the oppressed.
My review: So far, 4 stars!
I say so far because, in full disclosure, I haven’t finished reading it yet. At 608 pages, it is a pretty dense book and with baby boy arriving in 4 weeks, my brain can only handle so much at one time. It has nothing to do with the writing, the story, or the author’s approach and everything to do with baby brain!
The author has been on my to-read list for a few years so I jumped at the chance to finally read some of her work. Add in my favorite time period of World War II and I’m really glad I have this book in my hands. As a historian who is particularly interested in women’s history, I am also a huge fan of the publishing trend in the last few years of highlighting hidden women’s stories throughout various time periods, but especially during the life-changing era of World War II.
The book is rich in detail and it’s clear Chiaverini did A LOT of research on this book which I appreciate on many levels. The book also covers an expanse of time– 1929 through 1946– and follows three women. These factors alone would make the book long, but when Chiaverini adds in her masterful storytelling and dialogue, it’s pretty easy to see how the book came to be 600 pages (I wonder what the earlier drafts looked like!). I appreciate the expanded time period because so often in World War II era fiction it jumps right into Hitler and things going terribly without the slow buildup that led to his rise in power.
One of the reasons I like historical fiction as a genre is because it brings life to often well-known events and provides creative personal insights. What I like even more is when I learn about something I had no clue about before. I’ve read a few novels about the various resistance movements during World War II (The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah being one of my favorites), but this book is based on the German- based spy/resistance movement based in Berlin called the Red Orchestra, which I had never heard of before. This is definitely the area where Chiaverini’s research comes through because there are a lot of facts and information ( I’ve been googling a lot while reading) but they aren’t boring and don’t read like non-fiction.
I’m hoping this weekend I’ll have plenty of relaxation time in my sunroom to finish the book!
Buy the book here!