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The Winter Guest by Pam Jenoff

The Second World War left its mark on the world. It took nearly an entire generation and devastated those who survived. Stories set during this time period often include harrowing acts of bravery, ruthless acts of violence, and the spirit of triumph and victory. 

 

This book contains all of those things. Two 18-year-old twin sisters find themselves responsible for the survival of their three younger siblings while living under the threat of Nazi invasion. The character and world building were well done. I had a good sense of these two sisters and the world in which they lived.

 

However, for me, the beginning of the story was a bit slow. There was always the hint of danger, but the exciting conflict didn’t occur until well over halfway into the book, and then felt a bit rushed. There were also so many missed opportunities for added tension and conflict. I won’t spoil it, but there’s a line from an old Bing Crosby movie that says, “Lord help the sister, who comes between me and my man.” And that’s the part of the story I feel was missing.

For the exploration of a young woman’s struggles during this time period, the excellent world building, and a romance I wanted to see work out, this book earns 3 1/2 stars from me.

3.5/5

Book Details

Life is a constant struggle for the eighteen-year-old Nowak twins as they raise their three younger siblings in rural Poland under the shadow of the Nazi occupation. The constant threat of arrest has made everyone in their village a spy, and turned neighbor against neighbor. Though rugged, independent Helena and pretty, gentle Ruth couldn’t be more different, they are staunch allies in protecting their family from the threats the war brings closer to their doorstep with each passing day.

Then Helena discovers an American paratrooper stranded outside their small mountain village, wounded, but alive. Risking the safety of herself and her family, she hides Sam—a Jew—but Helena’s concern for the American grows into something much deeper. Defying the perils that render a future together all but impossible, Sam and Helena make plans for the family to flee. But Helena is forced to contend with the jealousy her choices have sparked in Ruth, culminating in a singular act of betrayal that endangers them all—and setting in motion a chain of events that will reverberate across continents and decades.

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