Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The School for German Brides by Aimie K. Runyan

In this intriguing historical novel, a young woman who is sent to a horrific "bride school" to be molded into the perfect Nazi wife finds her life forever intertwined with a young Jewish woman about to give birth.

Germany, 1939

As the war begins, Hanna Rombauer, a young German woman, is sent to live with her aunt and uncle after her mother's death. Thrown into a life of luxury she never expected, Hanna soon finds herself unwillingly matched with an SS officer. The independence that her mother lovingly fostered in her is considered highly inappropriate as the future wife of an up-and-coming officer and she is sent to a "bride school." There, in a posh villa on the outskirts of town, Hanna is taught how to be a "proper" German wife. The lessons of hatred, prejudice, and misogyny disturb her and she finds herself desperate to escape.

For Mathilde Altman, a German Jewish woman, the war has brought more devastation than she ever thought possible. Torn from her work, her family, and her new husband, she fights to keep her unborn baby safe. But when the unthinkable happens, Tilde realizes she must hide. The risk of discovery grows greater with each passing day, but she has no other options.

When Hanna discovers that Tilde hiding near the school, she knows she must help her however she can. For Tilde, fear wars with desperation. The women must take extraordinary risks to save the lives of mother and baby.

Will they both be able to escape with their lives and if they do, what kind of future can they possibly hope for?

Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 26, 2022 
by William Morrow Paperbacks
3.5/5 stars

Contrary to what the name of this book implies, The School for German Brides takes up very little of the story. Rather, it’s the story of two older teens, one a Jewish girl hiding in plain sight, and the other a German sent to live with Nazi supporting relatives.

Beginning in 1938 and alternating between the 2 points of view, Europe is feeling the birth pains of the horrible changes to come. For both Hanna and Mathilde their hopes and dreams for the future quickly vanish. As each of these young women go through their own sets of trials and heartache it is their friendship with Klara that slowly bind them together. I would have loved to hear Klara‘s point of view as she struggled and had a story to tell just as the others.

The School for German Brides is a coming of age story set during a horrible time in history, it is about family, heritage and the resilience to survive and begin anew. 

Aimie K. Runyan is not a new author to me. I have read many of her books, beginning with her debut series, Daughters of New France, which I highly recommend for those looking for some Canadian historical fiction reading.

This book was part of my 2023 Reading Off My Shelf Challenge

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