I am huge WW2 geek and read a variety of novels set in the era. A friend of mine, Rachel recommended Jane’s novel’s via the Facebook group ‘second world war club’ and I actually found a signed copy in a local charity shop. Although my TBR pile is mountainous, this novel proved difficult to ignore, the cover is eye-catching and immediately has you wanting to know what lurks inside….
So here is my review and a Q&A with the author herself, Huge thank you to Rachel for the recommendation, you were right, I did love the novel as much as you predicted!
Faith And beauty by Jane Thynne (#4 Clara Vine series)
Berlin, on the eve of war…
As soldiers muster on the streets, spies circle in the shadows and Lotti Franke, a young woman from the Faith and Beauty Society – the elite finishing school for Nazi girls – is found in a shallow grave.
Clara Vine, Anglo-German actress and spy, has been offered the most ambitious part she has ever played. And in her more secret life, British Intelligence has recalled her to London to probe reports that the Nazis and the Soviet Union are planning to make a pact.
Then Clara hears of Lotti’s death, and is determined to discover what happened to her. But what she uncovers is something of infinite value to the Nazi regime – the object that led to Lotti’s murder – and now she herself is in danger.
In a drama which traverses Berlin, Paris, Vienna and London, Clara Vine tries to keep her friends close, but finds her enemies are even closer.
The novel opens in Berlin 1939, on the eve of war! Immediately we are swept away with the faith and beauty society, the goings on and inner workings, of this elite clique of Aryan German women being groomed for the future of the Reich! However, it becomes clear that not everything is as it seems and the ‘Third Reich’s vestal virgins’ are not as pure as the Nazi movement would have you believe……….
The idea of a society that can manipulate women in to roles and re-define their journeys through adulthood, almost seems laughable in 2017. But this is not 2017, it is 1939 and the Nazi party are in power and growing eternally power crazed! They must control, dominate and manipulate all the citizens and the includes German women!
“Who will ever ask in three or five hundred years’ time, whether a Fraulein muller or schuize was unhappy?” Heinrich Himmler
Hedwig and Lotti, are two young women, in the prime of their lives. At the faith and beauty society they learn music, tapestries and sketch landscapes. They make an oath to the Fuhrer pledging loyalty, sacrifice and achievement. It is when the body of Lotti is found savagely murdered, that Hedwig begins to question the Nazi ideals.
Across Berlin, a young actress rubs shoulders with the Nazi Party’s spouses. She moves amongst them with ease, almost as if she belongs to their clique. Her name is Clara Vine and Clara has secrets, secrets that could get her killed………. Befriending the Nazi’s spouses with their scheming ways and secrecy is never going to be an easy task. Clara excels at her role, making close friendships with Frau Hess, Emmy Goering and the insufferable Magda Goebbels. But why is Clara so interested in Goebbels and his propaganda?
“History is whatever Doktor Goebbels says it is”
As the outbreak of war looms ever closer and there is speculation of a Russian/German alliance, tensions are frazzled, people scheme and violence escalates.
The historical accuracy within this novel is absolutely outstanding! I have read lots of ww2 fiction throughout my life and this has to be one of the finest and neatest, I have ever read! The author manages to describe Berlin with such vivid paragraphs, that you almost feel as though you are there and watching the history take place around you. Obviously this makes for emotive reading, especially the descriptions of the Nazi atrocities.
“The carpet of broken glass had spawned its own sinister, poetic coining, known the world over Kristallnacht The Night Of Broken Glass”
Within the novel the author really has brought to life the members of the Nazi party, their wives and family members also. Listening to their conversation and attitudes, is terrifying, yet spellbinding, all at the same time. Clara meets with an engages with a wide-variety of people, which adds so much depth to her story and characterisation. I can see her being many readers, favourite ww2 book character.
When Clara meets Hedwig, she becomes caught up with the mystery of Lotti’s murder. Who killed her and why? With war looming will they ever be caught? The faith and beauty society is the Nazi’s way of bringing German women in line and conditioning the women to the Nazi Ideals. But essentially this is a story of 3 of those women, whom for various reasons, refuse to be controlled. I think the author has also created a very balanced novel, which fully shows how the Nazi’s won power and the love of the German people.
“Germany is the first country in Europe to make laws to protect animals” Whilst Hitler passes laws to protect animals, he also passes laws that sentence an entire demographic’s to death!
Clara continues to ascertain as much information as she can gather. Whilst also attempting to help Hedwig uncover her friend’s killer. But it is upon meeting Obersturmbannfuhrer Adler that her own Aryanization is called into question. Will Clara survive the war? Who can she trust to help her hide her secrets.
“To be the subject of gossip was never a surprise in Nazi Germany. But a warning from the propaganda ministers wife was far more worrying”
This is a definitive novel of secrets/lies and loyalty/dishonour in Nazi Germany! The historical accuracy is second to none and the plot keeps the reader gripped to the end! I highly recommend this novel 5*
Q) Hi Jane, for the readers could you give us a summary of yourself and your ww2 fiction series featuring Clara Vine?
A) Hi Abby, thanks so much for having me on your blog!
Before writing the Clara Vine series I was a journalist both at the BBC and Fleet Street. I’m mostly a full time writer now, which is wonderful, though I admit I miss the water cooler gossip. There are five novels in the series to date. Clara’s adventures started in Black Roses, which is set in 1933, just after Hitler has come to power in Germany. She arrives in Berlin at the age of 26, hoping to make a career at the famous Babelsberg studios, the Hollywood of Europe. By chance she comes into contact with Magda Goebbels, wife of the Propaganda Minister, and becomes privy to the gossip of the VIP Nazi wives. Later, she agrees to relay information to British Intelligence, and thus becomes actress by day, spy by night.
Q) What was the inspiration behind the character of Clara Vine?
A) Although Clara herself is not modelled on any specific historical character, I did read the diaries of young British women who had visited Germany before the war, and observed the build-up of Nazism. They came back and warned people about the rise of the Nazis, but their warnings fell on deaf ears. I thought it would be good to have an actress as my spy heroine, because actresses are accustomed to playing a role, and they are trained to observe detail. Clara’s entire life in Berlin is an act, but her glamour blinds the Nazi VIPs to her real purpose.
Q) Why is the role of women in ww2, so important to you? And who are your personal heroes from ww2?
A) I’m delighted that the role of women in WW2, particularly in the field of espionage, is finally being celebrated, with a stack of books about the SOE heroines. But I wanted to look at the lives of ordinary German women – mothers, brides, schoolgirls – whose lives were tightly controlled under the regime. The society was extremely gender segregated – there was even a female Führer, called Gertrude Scholtz-Klink – yet these women get very little attention from historians and their lives are largely hidden. As for heroines, there are too many to count, but I also have one anti-heroine in the form of Unity Mitford, who fell in love with Hitler. Although her behaviour was generally abhorrent – she asked for pistol lessons so that she could shoot Jews – some of it is so eccentric as to make hilarious reading. She used to take copies of Tatler to Goebbels with rings around the pictures of people who might be approached for Nazi fund-raising.
Q) I have noticed in the ww2 historical fiction genre, there is often a divide of topics and themes by female/male writers, possibly more than any other genre. With male writers, writing predominately male characters and vice versa. Why do you think this occurs in this genre?
A) Nothing divides like war. It involves both weaponry, battles and politics that has traditionally appealed to men, and intensely emotional relationships that tend to interest women.
Q) What is it about the ww2 era that fascinates you the most? What are the stories that influence your writing?
A) What fascinates me is how people survive in a regimented totalitarian society where everyone feels spied on and normal human relationships are fraught with mistrust. One of my big influences was Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. Nazi Germany was the ultimate dystopia, in which women were primarily valued for their breeding potential, and the Nazi Bride Schools that I wrote about in The Winter Garden or the Mother Service in A War of Flowers were fact long before I used them for fiction.
Q) As stated in my review, I think the historical accuracy is second to none and I often paused to research real-life people from history. What is your research process?
A) I have been writing the Clara Vine series for six years now, and to be honest I have also spent six years reading books about Nazis. But I do read other things! I also go to Germany frequently, especially Berlin, and I love visiting the sites that I’m going to use in my fiction. There’s a special kind of thrill in seeing a place that I know I’m going to revisit with Clara Vine.
Q) what are your favourite ww2 fiction novels?
A) I like novels that take an oblique angle on the vast canvas of war. Stories in which the battles and politics are not in the foreground. For example, Graham Green’s The Third Man, although it’s set just after the war’s end, because it’s about love and crime against the ruins of Europe. And for home front literature, I adore the Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard.
*Huge thank you to the author for taking part in a Q&A on my blog! 🙂
Clara Vine Series:
#1 Black Roses
#2 The Scent Of Secrets
#3 A War Of Flowers
#4 Faith And Beauty
*more information is available via the authors web site.