Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Hannah's War by Jan Eliasberg

I actually ended up enjoying this a lot more than I thought I did. This is a story told towards the end of WWII, right around the time of the Hiroshima bombing and Hitler taking his own life. Hannah Weiss is a Jewish physicist who, after being exiled in Germany, has come to work with Oppenheimer to develop the Atomic bomb. Beautiful and brilliant, she is often unappreciated for her great work, and to make matters worse, the U.S. gov't is now investigating her, assuming that she's a German spy.

Told in two timelines, we learn about Hannah's seemingly doomed love affair with one of her colleagues in Germany, as she and her family live in fear of the growing hatred against Jewish people brewing in their country, and then also in the present as the man who's investigating her, Jack Delaney, plays a sensual game of cat and mouse with his charge, growing more and more attracted to her even as he tries to find out Hannah's secrets without revealing too many of his own (and he has a lot).

HANNAH'S WAR falls under a genre that I call "book club bait." It is largely a puff piece that doesn't delve into anything too controversial. Even the feminist themes in this book are "safe": she is a physicist, yes, but she is also feminine and the bulk of the focus is on her relationships with the men in the novel. It's a safe and feel-good book packed with suspense and emotional drama, and even though it's gorgeously written, it doesn't really challenge the status quo.

There's nothing wrong with being book club bait-- in fact, I enjoyed this novel and its focus on the arts, as much how it portrayed the struggle of a woman in the sciences-- but I wouldn't go into this book expecting anything controversial, earth-shattering, or challenging. Anyone who likes suspenseful historical fiction with romance will love this, and I think that's a lot of people. It actually reminded me a bit of this book I read recently called THE GLITTERING HOUR, another puff piece that seemed like it would be a wallpaper historical, but ended up pleasantly surprising me.

Bonus points for all the references to paintings and literature that had me racing to Google.

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy in exchange for an honest review! 

4 out of 5 stars

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