Thursday, July 30, 2020

Review: The Prisoner's Wife by Maggie Brooks

by Maggie Brooks
Release Date: May 26th 2020
2020 Berkley Books
Kindle Edition; 400 Pages
ISBN: 978-0593197752
ASIN: B09191G4GJ
Genre: Fiction / Historical / WWII
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

In the dead of night, a Czech farm girl and a British soldier travel through the countryside. Izabela and prisoner of war Bill have secretly married and are on the run, with Izzy dressed as a man. The young husband and wife evade capture for as long as possible--until they are cornered by Nazi soldiers with tracking dogs.

Izzy's disguise works. The couple are assumed to be escaped British soldiers and transported to a POW camp. However, their ordeal has just begun, as they face appalling living conditions and the constant fear of Izzy's exposure. But in the midst of danger and deprivation comes hope, for the young couple are befriended by a small group of fellow prisoners. These men become their new family, willing to jeopardize their lives to save Izzy from being discovered and shot.

My Thoughts
The Prisoner's Wife is one of those books that I thought would be really interesting as I had the belief it was based on a true story; however, the story was based on a supposed true story with no facts, names, places, or anything to really back it up so really, it was based on an idea given to the author on hearsay and is a bit misleading in its description.  While the author did do a lot of great and interesting research for this book, something that I really enjoyed, I was not a fan of the main character and the accompanying marketing material put way too much emphasis on this being based on a true story, which is misleading.

First of all, the author did very meticulous research for this novel and definitely appreciated that.  Because of this, the long march during the last third of the novel was probably my favourite part as it gave very good descriptions of the suffering the men faced during this terrible time period.  The author was able to capture the suffering and the misery of the soldiers as well as the fear they faced during their tribulations.  There are not as many books written about this episode, focusing more on the Auschwitz death march, so it was nice to see a book focusing on some of the other marches that happened as well.

There were some complex, interesting characters in this book.  I really took a liking to Ralph, Max, and Scotty, and enjoyed learning about their backgrounds and how they ended up where they did.  However, I was not a fan of the main character, Izzy, and this is probably why I gave the book the rating that I did.  For a woman growing up in occupied Czechoslovakia, she was incredibly naive about a lot of things, and did some really stupid things.  Running away to get married, hoping her father and her brother would just magically find her has got to be one of the dumbest things in this book.  For a girl who lived under German occupation for over six years, she would have known exactly what she would have been facing.  She was twenty years old, not six.  And her behaviour was all over the place, flying into a rage because her new husband had sexual relations before they were married? That whole conversation actually made me uncomfortable with the underlying preachy tones that accompanied it. And the author tried to make Izzy sound innocent but it actually made her seem stupid at times. You just have to read the book to see what I mean. 

The plot itself moved rather quickly, and for the most part was enjoyable.  Like I said, I did not like Izzy as a character and had to grit my teeth a few times during the book.  And I have never been, and will never be, a fan of instalust/love.  And while the marketing says this doesn't happen, yes, it does. However, the author has a gripping writing style which I enjoyed, and once I got past the Izzy-ness, I thought the descriptions of the POW camp and the work camps were really intriguing.  I would have actually like to have read more about the British POW camp. 

The Prisoner's Wife was actually an enjoyable book, but I was not a fan of the main character.  I thought she was annoying and though the author was trying to make her seem fiery and wilful, she came across as childish and silly half the time.  I did like how the author handled the multiple POVS as well the descriptions of the various POW camps and work camps though, and thought she did a great job at showing the suffering and misery, as well as the lives, of the prisoners.  I would definitely read another book by this author, and yes, I would recommend this book.  Other readers may connect and empathize with Izzy in a way I couldn't. 


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