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The Netherlands, Spring 1943. When her glittering career as a ballerina is cut short by a dancing injury, Elise Van Thooft-Noman, rebellious daughter of a powerful Dutch Nazi, flees to an isolated island off the coast of Holland. Here she meets Pieter Goedhart, reluctant village schoolmaster and Resistance fighter. A dangerous affair is kindled between them. Meanwhile Elise’s Nazi family and the terrifying brutality of war are closing in, threatening to destroy all she holds dear…
New York, September 2008. Uncomfortably overweight, single and scraping thirty, Jenni Malarkey is summoned to a mysterious party to celebrate her estranged grandmother’s glamorous life. Her journey through Elise’s secret history will force her to confront a legacy of guilt and shame… Past and present intersect, as unlikely hearts connect to seek love and redemption, in this haunting time-shift novel set in wartime Holland and contemporary New York.
The Nazi’s Daughter by Tim Murgatroyd is the story of Elise and Jenni, two women, generations apart inked by blood and history. Jenni is Elise’s granddaughter. The story begins with the death of Elise. Jenni attends a celebration of her grandmother’s life although it is clear from the start that the two didn’t really know each other. However, at this ceremony, she decides to get to know her grandmother. She starts searching for answers and asking questions to find out who she was.
The story is narrated in two timelines. The past is set in 1943 with Elise growing up as the Nazi’s daughter. She suffers an injury and goes off to live at the coast where she meets Peter. Peter is in the resistance. In his house, there are people hiding in the attic including Jews, a man wanted by the Nazi and black pilot. Peter and Elise meet and over time, friendship turns to something more. However, their identities pose a threat to the relationship and to the lives of those around them. If the resistance finds out about Peter’s relationship with Elise, they could eliminate her based on the fear that she will reveal their secrets. If the Nazis find out about the relationship and take a closer look at Peter, they may find the people in his attic and that would mean death to them and Peter. In addition, one of the Nazi officers, Cornelius has an interest in Elise and is determined to marry her. This poses another challenge to the relationship. Although both are hiding secrets and fears about the relationship, Peter and Elise can’t fight the feelings that they had for each other.
I liked the past narrations. The 1943 timeline was interesting. The author developed the setting to reflect the realities of the time. The conflict between the Nazi, resistance and Jews was vividly portrayed through the pages. I know this shouldn’t shock me but I still can’t believe that there are people who were once loyal to Hitler. In the book, the Nazis determination is evident. They believe in Hitler and his ideologies. They are so dedicated to their leader that not even family can deter their commitment. On the other hand, I liked the description of the resistance. These are people who decided not to support the Hitler madness and risked their lives to do so.
Elise stands out in the narrative. She was rebellious, strong and determined. Her family name haunted her wherever she went but in a way, she was determined to establish her own identity. On the other hand, her granddaughter was different. I don’t have much to say about her apart from the fact that I admired her resolve to find answers. However, thinking about her now, I don’t think her character was as well developed as Elise’s. I didn’t connect with her and I actually found myself more interested in her grandmother’s story.
This book is tragic and certain events broke my heart. However, the story was addictive. I especially wanted to know Elise and the events that took place in her life. The writing has an easy flow to it. The only thing that bugged me a little bit was the amount of details. I could skip a paragraph and find out that I hadn’t missed anything. Nevertheless, I think that this book will appeal to lovers of historical fiction.