Book Review ~ Those Who Saved Us by Jenna Blum

We choose to read books for many reasons.  Sometimes the cover art speaks to us from the shelves of a local library or book store and we feel the need to take that book home.  We may chose our books based on reviews  read in Bookmarks Magazine, the book review section of the local newspaper or even because we read a fabulous review here on Planet Books.  LOL!  Well I chose to read Jenna Blum’s haunting novel, Those Who Saved Us, for a fairly unique reason.  The main character has the same last name as I had till I got married in 2004. 

Those_Who_Save_Us

Those Who Saved Us is a story about a woman named Anna who finds the Nazis invading all aspects of her hometown of Weimar, Germany and putting it on the map due to its geographical relation to Buchenwald concentration camp.  Anna’s father is a terrible parental figure, making Anna’s life miserable and difficult as her sole purpose becomes the huge job of handling every need of his and their home.  She finds relief in the friendship with “The Good Doktor”, Max Stern, and eventually the forbidden love that grows out of their chess games and conversations.  Max is a Jew and the risk of even talking with him is deadly.  Eventually, fear for Max’s life due to his association with The Resistance pushes Anna into action and she hides him in the walls of his father’s house.  Of course, as happened all over Europe in the late 30′s and early 40′s, Max is discovered by Anna’s father and shipped off to the Gestapo.  This is the catalyst for Anna and she quickly leaves her childhood home and becomes apprentice to a local baker and spy for The Resistance. 

Well folks, that is just the beginning of this enrapturing and memorable book.  The book jumps from WWII Germany to mid’90′s Minnesota and back again.  In Minnesota, Anna is an elderly, secret filled woman who has just lost her husband and has a stressed relationship with her middle-aged daughter Trudy.  Trudy is a professor of German history at a university in Minneapolis.  She joins a fellow professor on a project that finds her locating Germans in the area who survived WWII in Germany by any means possible and recording their stories.  Little does she know what one of her interviews will disclose about her own mysterious path and the ways her mother made it possible for the two of them to survive during one of this planets most hellish periods.

The drama and stories that emerge from Those Who Saved Us will stay with me forever.  I have said before that I think it is very important for these historical fiction novels to find a voice.  They may be fiction but they are based on fact and in the case of Those Who Saved Us, Jenna Blum completed a great amount of research thanks to Steven Spielberg’s Shoah Foundation. 

Those Who Saved Us reads like a drama and horror story at times but provides a lesson in history and how you can never truly escape your past.  I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys the historical fiction genre but warn you that there are some stories within that will cause your jaw to drop and your stomach to turn. 

{Rating ~ 4 out of 5}

2 thoughts on “Book Review ~ Those Who Saved Us by Jenna Blum

  1. I read this book a few years ago and the story still haunts me today. This obviously means it was a powerful book. It’s a wonderful piece of historical fiction, but it’s so chilling and disturbing at the same time. Very well written and probably very true!

  2. My partner, who is Polish has started reading this novel. I have flicked through it and read one or two of the passages. I don’t think that it is a great novel, in fact I would describe it as being rather clunky. However the themes will appeal particularly to women – love story – mother / daughter relationship, etc.

    My partner’s own mother was around during this historical period. So although this is rapidly becoming ‘history’ and something that happened long ago, there is a certain resonance today.

    The book also deals with various issues. What I did not like about it, was that it was not necessarily historical accurate and yet it purported to demonstrate various historical facts. I would prefer to read a history book. I am thinking particularly about Ian Kershaw’s ‘The End: Hitler’s Germany, 1944-45′.

    There has been a lot written about this novel if you are interested.

    I found the spelling slightly unusual. When I was reading it, I wondered whether it had been written by a foreigner. I now realise that this is a technique employed by the author to create authenticity.

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