Book Review: White Rose, Black Forest

White Rose, Black Forest

Dempsey, Eoin

Lake Union Publishing, Seattle, 2018

December, 1943.  A young woman, recently released from a Nazi prison after serving a minor sentence as an accomplice to the White Rose resistance movement, is wandering in a snowy night in the depths of the Black Forest.  Her mother died shortly before the war started, her brother and her boyfriend were killed by the Nazis, and her father died in an Allied bombing raid shortly before she was released from prison.  Having inherited her family’s small cabin up in the forest, she decides that with everyone she has ever loved dead and a country following a path she can’t agree with there is no point in continuing to live.  With her father’s old pistol in her coat pocket, she is out on a final hike among the landscape she grew up in as she seeks to find a suitable place to kill herself and join those she loves.

With these thoughts in mind, she comes across a clearing covered in new snow and sees the crumpled form of a person lying in it, still attached to a parachute.  Unable to suppress years of training as a nurse, she goes and finds that the person, apparently a Luftwaffe pilot, is unconscious but alive and has badly broken both legs.  Knowing that he will die in the developing blizzard if she does nothing, her instincts kick in and she rescues him, even dragging his limp body back over the hills to the cabin she thought she had left for a final time when she sat out on the walk.

As she nurses him back to health things just don’t seem to add up for either of them. They eventually realize the truth; he is an American spy, she is an unapologetic dissident, and it becomes clear that if he is going to complete his mission she will have to be part of it. Although their remote location and snow-closed roads shield them from most other people, she occasionally needs to go into town for food and supplies, and while doing that she happens to come across an old boyfriend, who is now the head of the local Gestapo, and he promises to pay her a visit.under the guise of checking up on known enemies of the state.

Those are the key elements in a very well-crafted and atmospheric historical fiction thriller.  Yes, you have to suspend some disbelief and knowledge of the actual events at times, but that’s a requirement of the genre as a whole, and in this book the cases where it occurs are well blended into the overall storyline in a way that is not as jarring as is often the case where an author tries to make general historic events fit their plot. It’s an enjoyable treatment of some topics which do not generally get much attention.

I would not be at all surprised to see this story turn into a visual format at some point; there is a good mix of opportunities for a director to follow the general plot but really add their own touch on how certain elements are handled.

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