Germany, 1943: Twenty-six-year-old Rosa Sauer’s parents are gone, and her husband Gregor is far away, fighting on the front lines of WWII. Impoverished and alone, she makes the fateful decision to leave war-torn Berlin to live with her in-laws in the countryside, thinking she’ll find refuge there. But one morning, the SS come to tell her she has been conscripted to be one of Hitler’s tasters: three times a day, she and nine other women go to his secret headquarters, the Wolf’s Lair, to eat his meals before he does. Forced to eat what might kill them, the tasters begin to divide into The Fanatics, those loyal to Hitler, and the women like Rosa who insist they aren’t Nazis, even as they risk their lives every day for Hitler’s.
As secrets and resentments grow, this unlikely sisterhood reaches its own dramatic climax. What’s more, one of Rosa’s SS guards has become dangerously familiar, and the war is worsening outside. As the months pass, it becomes increasingly clear that Rosa and everyone she knows are on the wrong side of history. (From Goodreads)
I was hyped that I got this book for review. It had such an interesting historical point of view and a lot of promise. However I was a bit disappointed with the way it was written and the entire plot of the book wasn’t really what I was expecting.
Perhaps it is because this was translated from its’ original language (Italian) so there may be several instances of the writing being ‘lost in translation’. I just found the writing style filled with so much ‘fluff’. Fluff in a sense where there was so much rambling and wordiness. This is where it feels like the author is trying to make the story more ‘lyrical and poetic’ and you’re left with a very slow drawn out plot, a very uninteresting main character, and it feels like you’re watching one of those black and white art movies where some parts just don’t make sense. I was left after some chapters wondering what was I reading and why was this even in the story. It didn’t make sense and it’s taking up space in the story where there should be more interesting things mentioned.
The chapters were sometimes written out of order, there were moments of how Rosa and Gregor met and their first moments of marriage, then it shifts back to Rosa being taste tester for Hitler. Then it goes back even further to Rosa’s childhood, or her past moments in Berlin, and then as the book ends there’s more time jumping. It’s not cohesive and it doesn’t let the plot flow. It also makes you wonder what the purpose of it was. So if it weren’t for this, the plot would have been more smooth and easier to read.
The plot was flat and I was expecting a lot more. There were key moments in the plot where there were moments of interest. Such as the bombing of the Wolf’s Lair, and Ziegler’s confessions of ‘working’ in Eastern Europe. It was things like these that saved the story from becoming a did not finish for me.
The characters in the book were uninteresting and bland. Rosa wasn’t much likeable. I rather preferred Elfriede because she had more character and substance to her. Other than Elfriede though, the other characters don’t really stand out much. The plot including Elfriede really stood out to me. Unfortunately it was over rather quickly.
I wish I could like this book better, but I couldn’t. The writing was too much for me, the plot was flat and lacked flow. I wish knowing the outcome of some of these characters, as it would have satiated my curiosity and would have made a good amount of closure in the plot and characters. Sad to say, this was a disappointing read for me.
I give it a 4 out of 10.
Thank you Flatiron Books for the review copy!