Young German midwife Anke Hoff is apprehended in the streets of Berlin, separated from her parents and siblings, and taken to a work camp because of her family’s anti-Reich sympathies. At the work camp, she uses her skills to deliver babies–many of whom die only hours later from drowning or exposure to the elements–and give dignity to the grieving mothers. In a strange twist of events, the German authorities later remove her from the camp to the idyllic setting of the Berghof in the Bavarian Alps. Her mission: to deliver the baby of Eva Braun, Hitler’s mistress. Her reward: a stay on retribution against her family.
At the Berghof, Anke makes friends with Christa, a maid whom she enlists to help with the upcoming birth, and with an SS Officer named Dieter who seems to conceal a heart full of kindness beneath his Nazi uniform. As Eva’s pregnancy progresses, the resistance makes overtures to Anke and she is forced to face a difficult decision–does every baby deserve to live, no matter who its parents are?
This book is a work of alternate history, considering the scenario of “what if Hitler fathered a child?” I enjoyed the premise of this novel but struggled to connect with the main character. Anke’s flashbacks to the concentration camp were probably the most riveting parts of the story, and the conflicts she experienced at the Berghof seemed very “low stakes” compared with what she had already been through. The pacing itself was slow–Anke mentions several times that there is nothing for her to do at the Berghof while she waits for the birth, and the reader feels the same way. Of all the secondary characters, Dieter was the most interesting to me, but his character felt underdeveloped. Perhaps some of the copious paragraphs spent on childbirth descriptions (and the ongoing battle between midwives and medical doctors) could have been cut to add more to Dieter’s part of the story. I did appreciate the strong message woven throughout the novel that every child, regardless of any disabilities, deserves to live a full life.
Disclosure: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.