#BlogTour #Review and #WW2 #ClaraVine Q&A Solitaire by @janethynne @simonschusterUK #WW2Fiction 5*

*I received a copy via the publisher in return for an honest review*

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Solitaire by Jane Thynne
Synopsis:

June 1940: the first summer of the war. Berlin is being bombed and nightly blackouts suffocate the city. Then France falls and a shadow descends.

A shadow has fallen over Clara Vine’s own life, too. She is an Anglo-German woman in a country that hates England. Then she is summoned to meet the Propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels, who has decided that Clara should adopt a new role – as his spy.

Much as she dislikes the idea, Clara realises this might be the chance to find an escape route to England. But Goebbels has other ideas and soon Clara is drawn into a web that threatens to destroy her. As everything she holds dear is taken as ransom, she must fight to protect her family – and to survive…

My review:

June 1940, the first summer of war!
Clara Vine finds herself caught up in with more treachery, lies and spies……..

The prologue opens in July 1940 in Lisbon, Portugal. The author has done a fantastic job of setting the scene. Refugees are fleeing the Germans, and we become aware one lone woman is watching in the shadows. She is quickly cornered by the police and ushered into a waiting police car, disappearing into the dead of the night!

Meanwhile in Berlin, Clara is navigating her way around a darkened city. Darkened in more ways than one. Clara secretly listens to the British broadcasts of the BBC, whilst conspiring neighbour Dr Franz Engel blasts classical German music to conceal her activity. Clara is no longer spying for the British, but as we have come to know throughout the series. She is far from a Nazi collaborator.

The author brings, not just Berlin alive, but the surrounding historical figures of the senior SS and their wives. Clara rubs shoulders with the SS elite and is often, a listening ear for their complaining wives. Emmy Goering, Magda Goebbels and Annelise Von Ribbentrop are all brought alive on the page.
It is rare in world war two fiction, to see the Nazi SS wives play such central characters. Something much lost out on, in the genre, although not with Jane Thynne at the helm. The wives were more than complicit, in the war time activities of the Nazi party.
The rivalry and hierarchy, between them is intriguing to read.

But one-man terrifies Clara, a man that always keeps a close eye on her and that man, is none other than Joey Goebbels.

Clara’s close friend and confidant is American journalist Mary Hacker. Mary warns Clara of the dangers of her secrets being discovered. She informs her fully of the brutality of the Nazi regime. Mary is currently investigating the ‘resettlement’ of the Jewish Germans; what she uncovers is alarming. Yet it is merely the tip of the iceberg. After all, this is 1940.

“Say what you like about Mahatma propogandi, he’s clever” – Mary Hacker

The novel then introduces another female character orphan Katerina Klimpel. She is living in an orphanage ran by the Nazi party and their wives. Her only hope of escape is to locate her sister Sonja. A sister that disappeared two months ago.
Katerina’s childhood and experiences are fully explored. As the reader we become aware, of why she resides at the home. Why it is such a dangerous place to be, for a young woman, with a hidden disability.
But what connects Clara, Katerina and Sonja? How will their stories become interwoven?
That is the magic of the authors penmanship and the beauty of each novel in the series. The author connects Clara not only to the real-life Nazi hierarchy but to the real-life suffering of the ordinary German citizens.

When Clara is instructed with a mission. A command by Goebbels himself, she can not refuse. Refusal would be an immediate sentence to interrogation or worse, death!
She is asked to make a trip to Nazi occupied Paris and identify if Hans Reuber is a spy for British intelligence.
Clara’s personal grief and inner turmoil has changed her attitudes and shaken her beliefs to the core. But what does this mean for Hans Reuber if he is a spy?

“Everyday life is politics now. It’s impossible to say where one ends and the other begins” – Mary Hacker

The individual stories of all the characters are cleverly unravelled and explored. We uncover what motivates each individual and which Nazi SS senior figures, battle for Hitler’s attention. The novel has various themes of betrayal, loyalty, honour and trust. For the reader with limited knowledge of ww2 history, this novel can be an education, within itself. If you take the time to research each character and theme.
For the reader with comprehensive ww2 knowledge, you fully appreciate the authors historical accuracy.
One thing is 100% certain without a shadow of a doubt, Jane Thynne has done her research!

From the S-Bahn attacker, to the Jugmadel group, the ‘Lebensunwertes leben’ philosophy and even the drug use of pervitin. Each meticulous detail has a wealth of historical accuracy. Yet instead of being ‘taught’, the details are intertwined within this incredible novel, in a story format. Clara Vine is not to be missed!
The ending was incredible and left the series, wide open for its next instalment. Of which I long to read!

“A mother was the universe from whose substance one was formed, and the gap she left would never be filled”

Q&A:

Q) Within the opening pages of this novel, I felt a real change in Clara’s attitudes and approaches towards the Nazi regime. Is this done intentionally, to document how one may struggle with their inner turmoil during war time?

A) When Solitaire opens, Clara’s position is more perilous than ever. It’s 1940, war has begun, and Germany is a prison with no option of escape. So yes, she is forced to confront her own position more deeply, and the loss of her lover intensifies the sense that she really is a lone agent.

Q) As detailed in my review, the research and historical accuracy is second to none. How important is this to you as an author? Are there parts of the history, you think readers may believe are embellished, but are factually correct?
(such as the Pervitin usage)

A) It’s pretty obvious how much I adore the research. I enjoy picking out tiny details of a historical period, such as the fact that Germans could get coffee on prescription for insomnia during air raids. Accuracy is crucial! It’s what makes writing such a pleasure and readers are always quick to correct errors. One of the back stories in Solitaire is the fact that Germany faced a shortage of diamonds. Industrial diamonds were essential for any kind of arms manufacture, so when they invaded Holland and France they were desperate to seize them. I like how this fact connects the glamour and frivolity of diamonds with the deadly reality of war.

Q) I love the depth of the characters in the novel and throughout the series. In Solitaire in-particular, I really warmed to Katerina. How do you create the fictional characters? And are they loosely based on real-life individuals from history?

A) I’m very fond of my fictional girls. When I start reading memoirs or non-fiction, I find the voice of a single girl just calls out to me – often one who is quite compliant, and initially sees nothing wrong with the regime. Ultimately her story will be to discover strength and defiance. With each novel, I’ve tried to examine one aspect of female life in the Third Reich. Katerina is an orphan whose leg is crippled – just like Joseph Goebbels himself – but the Nazis had terrible plans for those who were physically imperfect. That is the Katerina’s peril, except that fortunately she discovers Clara Vine.

Q) The novel focuses around Joseph Goebbels mostly, as he is the most suspicious of Clara. Is there anything that you learned in the researching, that shocked or surprised you about him or his wife Magda?

A) Before the war, British VIPs visiting Germany would often find they preferred Goebbels to the other Nazis, not because he was any less repellent, but because he was intelligent, and could make jokes. It does help when writing about him, and of course, I’m especially interested in him because he was the propagandist, and he worked the levers that brainwashed an entire nation. I don’t think he was a psychopath, or mad, but a hater, with a giant chip on his shoulder whom power enabled to enact atrocities. In contrast his private life was a tiresome cliché of womanising and sentimental love affairs. It was Magda’s misfortune that she never properly managed to escape him. The truly shocking thing is that they murdered their six small children. But when you see the footage of the Russian advance on Berlin, and the savagery that was inflicted on German women and children, I suppose they had good reason to suspect real horrors if their own children were captured by the Russians. Even if they escaped with their lives they would have been paraded on screen and badly maltreated.

Q) The pairing of Irene and Walter Schellenberg, is one of almost disbelief. Yet one I look forward to reading more of. They come across on the page as very differing personalities. Were they difficult to write given their apparent unlikely courtship?

A) A great help was that, like many Nazis who survived the war, Walter Schellenberg, Heydrich’s number two, published his memoirs. Fascinating! He had an affair with Chanel and a complicated love life. Irene was his second wife and coming late to the Nazi hierarchy had a lot to learn.

Q) The novel deals with some very dark themes such as ‘Lebensunwertes Leben’ – life unworthy of living. The Nazi euthanasia programme for those deemed physically or mentally handicapped. With hindsight, it is almost unbelievable, how this philosophy was hidden from the German public. But I felt the writing provided the perfect scenario, of how this initiative was concealed and carried out. Is this difficult to write, without involving your own emotions in the story?

A) As the series has approached wartime, it’s been increasingly difficult to avoid the horrors being perpetrated, not only on Jews and foreigners, but on those deemed German citizens who did not fit with the ideas of the regime. The idea of mass extermination actually began with the euthanasia programme as Nazi doctors and psychiatrists explored ways of eliminating the imperfect. What’s interesting is how the public were softened up for this idea, for example with films of the mentally and physically disabled that asked whether they deserved scarce resources. Or maths questions in text books that asked kids to calculate how much a mentally disabled person cost the state and how many airplanes that money would cover.

Q) finally, what is next for Clara Vine? Are we allowed any snippets of what’s to come in her future?
That ending left me, desperate to read the next in the series.

A) The next in the series is set in 1941 and finds Clara making her biggest film to date – the Sinking of the Titanic. At the same time she is approached and asked to track down a British agent who has gone rogue. The shock is that she once knew this man – their paths crossed in Vienna back in 1937, when he was visiting the celebrated Sigmund Freud. Now she must find him again, and if he has really been turned, ensure that his treachery goes no further.

JT
Jane Thynne
Authors links:
Website: janethynne.com/
Twitter: @janethynne
Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/231830.Jane_Thynne
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorJaneThynne/

Author bio:
I was born in Venezuela and grew up with my parents and two brothers in London. After school in Hampton, I spent a year working at the Old Vic Theatre before reading English at St Anne’s College, Oxford.
I then joined the BBC as a production trainee, but after a few years succumbed to a hankering for Fleet Street and moved to The Sunday Times. I spent many cheerful years at The Daily Telegraph as media correspondent, but my single most exciting moment in that time was getting a publishing contract for my first novel.
In particular I have a passion for historical fiction and love the research that involves. The first in the Clara Vine series, Black Roses, became a number One Kindle Bestseller. In the UK the series is published by Simon & Schuster. Outside Britain, my novels have been translated into French, German, Greek, Turkish and Italian. In France the series is published by J.C Lattes and in Greece by Kedros. In the US and Canada the series is published by Random House.
As well as writing books I now freelance as a journalist, writing regularly for numerous British magazines and newspapers, and also appear as a broadcaster on Radio 4. I have been a guest reader at the Arvon Foundation and have sat on the broadcasting committee of the Society of Authors. I have three children and live in London.
I also have an active Facebook page where I love to interact with readers. Do please follow me on GOODREADS and add the Clara Vine novels to your ‘Want To Read’ list. Get in touch. It’s great to talk!

Blog Tour Schedule

 

#Review Faith And Beauty and #QandA with #Author @janethynne @simonschusterUK

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!

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Faith And beauty by Jane Thynne (#4 Clara Vine series)

The synopsis:

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.

My review:

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&A:

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! 🙂

jt
Jane Thynne
Authors links:
Web: http://janethynne.com/
Twitter: @janethynne

Clara Vine Series:
#1 Black Roses
#2 The Scent Of Secrets
#3 A War Of Flowers
#4 Faith And Beauty
#5 Solitaire
*more information is available via the authors web site.