The Constant Soldier by William Ryan
1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.
When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.
But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.
And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . . .
WW2 is one of my favourite genres in historical fiction. I have been a huge fan since I was in my teens. It is unusual for me to find something I would class as different/unique in the genre, as I have read such a variety of series/stand alones etc. I think this novel had something unique in that it focuses on the redemption of one man and his internal struggles with his conscience. which makes for, incredible reading!
Paul Brandt returns home to his sleepy village, having been wounded in an attack by the Russians. We later learn there are substantial injuries to his face. Brandt’s father was a surgeon during WW1 and when Brandt returns to Germany, he is aware it is a broken Germany indeed! The village is covered in swastikas and he notices a POW hut within the village. We meet Weber the baker, but under Nazi law, he has fast been promoted to Mayor of the town and this gives him absolute power and authority. This is something I have read time and time again in my ww2 non-fiction reading. How much power the Nazi party offered to small, vicious men, who followed their belief system!
We learn of Brandt’s past and the actions that led him to be on the front line. We also discover that he knows one of the female POW’s in the hut. But who is she? and where does he know her from? He sets about acquiring himself a job at the Hut. I found the theme of German resistance and redemption, very interesting and found this gave Brandt so much depth as a civilian, soldier and man.
The tables are turning of the Nazi’s at the POW hut, the soviets are closing in. The Nazi’s fear their violent revenge will be delivered soon! The violence and death, rolled out daily in the POW camp makes for tough reading. But these things did happen, so nonchalantly in the Nazi’s routine. Neumann is one character that is specifically savage in his approaches to prisoners. But everything I have ever read proves the Nazi party was riddled with men this evil………………..
This is a story of the tension and realisation that was brought to many Germans at the end of the war. It is thought-provoking and very well written.
Highly recommend 4*
The novel is available in hardback and Ebook format.
Paperback release is 1st June 2017.
*The authors website has a wealth of information and galleries, in relation to his novels and is well worth checking out!