In 1944, blonde and blue-eyed Jewess Hadassah Benjamin feels abandoned by God when she is saved from a firing squad only to be handed over to a new enemy. Pressed into service by SS-Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt at the transit camp of Theresienstadt in Czechoslovakia, she is able to hide behind the false identity of Stella Muller. However, in order to survive and maintain her cover as Aric’s secretary, she is forced to stand by as her own people are sent to Auschwitz. Suspecting her employer is a man of hidden depths and sympathies, Stella cautiously appeals to him on behalf of those in the camp. Aric’s compassion gives her hope, and she finds herself battling a growing attraction for this man she knows she should despise as an enemy. Stella pours herself into her efforts to keep even some of the camp’s prisoners safe, but she risks the revelation of her true identity with every attempt. When her bravery brings her to the point of the ultimate sacrifice, she has only her faith to lean upon. Perhaps God has placed her there for such a time as this, but how can she save her people when she is unable to save herself?
Thank you to my bookclub friend who picked this book for the month’s read. It was fabulous. After being in a reading slump for so long this helped me get back out. It was completely un-put-down-able.
However I am one of those people who love stories such as this, depressing, but there is something beneath it all that fascinates me. The deep brain wash and propaganda of Hitler and how it all transpired, the depth of soul in the lives of people in the camps, the truth behind such a tragic part of history. It’s real and tragic.
This story is a retelling of the biblical account of Esther and it follows a woman who was saved at the last second from a firing squad due to some “mistake” on her papers. Under the false name of Stella Muller she is moved from a camp to another camp, this time as a secretary at the transit camp of Theresienstadt (which actually exists). There under the employ of Kommandant Colonel Aric von Schmidt who isn’t what he appears to be.
I liked Stella because she was honest, having lived through time in a camp the author did a great job of creating the character and showing the deep fear, mistrust and horror of what she went through, yet the struggling of knowing she should be out there suffering with her fellow jews, yet not wanting to leave the comforts of this mistaken identity. Due to the fact that Stella has suffered so long in a camp she has to wear a wig of red hair to hide the baldness of her head from being shaved, she is impossibly thin and gaunt and the author painted a perfect picture of that aspect. And it was interesting to watch her transformation from starving survivor to a beautiful woman, wanted and adored.
I liked Aric, I enjoyed the inner struggle of everything, he wasn’t exactly a nazi he was a german completing orders he hated because that is what he was trained to do. Having fought for Germany he was wounded and offered a high position in which he dislikes but will do as commanded. I enjoyed the many levels of depth to this man as he finds his inner struggle to find the peace he hasn’t ever had in just about all his lift, I enjoyed that you weren’t ever sure as to what he would do and it kept you on your toes especially if you know of the account of Esther in the bible.
The romance was a little too cheesy for me, however, I understand the need for cheese in this story. I enjoyed the inner struggle of both Aric and Stella with their feelings and the hidden truth Stella was afraid to tell which added a but of mystery to the story which I liked.
Overall this retelling was fabulous and I was impressed at the authors telling of the real life aspect of the truth on what went on behind closed doors and not just between these two characters but other key players whose were actual nazi and enjoyed the suffering of others. I firmly believe that even though all the evil that was going on there were still good germans who fought for Germany and not for Hitler. I really enjoyed the showing of that in certain aspects.
Sexual Content: moderate (PG some kissing, innuendos)
Violence: heavy (do I really need to go into detail? it’s the holocaust)
Drugs/Alcohol: mild (social drinking)