Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Winter Guest - Book Review

From the cover :

A stirring novel of first love in a time of war and the unbearable choices that could tear sisters apart, from the celebrated author of The Kommandant's Girl

Life is a constant struggle for the eighteen-year-old Nowak twins as they raise their three younger siblings in rural Poland under the shadow of the Nazi occupation. The constant threat of arrest has made everyone in their village a spy, and turned neighbor against neighbor. Though rugged, independent Helena and pretty, gentle Ruth couldn't be more different, they are staunch allies in protecting their family from the threats the war brings closer to their doorstep with each passing day. 

Then Helena discovers an American paratrooper stranded outside their small mountain village, wounded, but alive. Risking the safety of herself and her family, she hides Sam—a Jew—but Helena's concern for the American grows into something much deeper. Defying the perils that render a future together all but impossible, Sam and Helena make plans for the family to flee. But Helena is forced to contend with the jealousy her choices have sparked in Ruth, culminating in a singular act of betrayal that endangers them all—and setting in motion a chain of events that will reverberate across continents and decades.

My thoughts :

The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff sounded like just the novel to fit my current reading mood--a historical fiction combined with a love story and a family saga. It starts with promise. Helena is a likable character who has such hope even in her dire circumstances. Though she's no romantic, Helena can't help but fall in love with the wounded American. Thus becomes the moral dilemma as she must choose between attempting to escape the growing hostilities as the German forces move in or remaining with the family that she has been charged with caring for. 

There is an awful lot happening in this novel. Helena and Ruth are embattled in a constant cold war of sibling tension. Helena uncovers deep and dangerous family secrets. She's falling in love with a man she must protect and keep hidden. She's toying with the idea of joining the underground resistance. All while observing the horrifying atrocities committed by the Germans against the Jewish people. 

Unfortunately, even with so many ideas and themes crammed into the tale, the story moves along at a slow and meandering pace before concluding with a sudden rushing yet weak ending. The epilogue, in an attempt to fill in the unanswered questions left by the rushed ending, seemed ridiculously unbelievable and unemotional. Though I can't exactly put my finger on it, something throughout the novel just felt "off". 

Overall, I was left wanting more build up to the passionate love affair; more equilibrium to the pacing of the plot; and more careful characterization of the supporting cast.

The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff was published by Harlequin MIRA in August 2014.

**I received a complimentary copy of The Winter Guest. No additional compensation was received. All opinions are my own.**

1 comment:

Caryn Caldwell said...

Huh. That's good to know. I do like historical fiction, but I'm sorry to hear this one was kind of slow.