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Last year I read the first three of Rebecca Cantrell's "Hannah Vogel" series one right after the other, and by the end, her evocative prose had me dreaming that Nazis were following me through Pike Place Market (really!). She's that good. But I figured that, since a year has passed, I wouldn't be so deeply affected again by a single book.
I was wrong. She really IS that good.
In A City of Broken Glass, Hannah is writing for a Swiss newspaper under her pseudonym, Adelheid Zinsli, and she is sent to cover the Feast of St. Martin in a small Polish town. What should be an easy assignment and a lovely day out rapidly becomes much more serious when Hannah, her son, Anton, and their driver, Fraulein Ivona, find some of the 12,000 Polish Jews that were deported from Germany in the fall of 1938 and then housed in silos and stables. Their plight becomes personal for Hannah when she meets her old friend, Miriam, exhausted, hungry and in labor. Hannah resolves to bring Miriam medical help, and her actions take her right into harm's way.
Kidnapped by two members of the Gestapo, Hannah is brought back to Berlin, where there is a price on her head. She is rescued by an unlikely duo, but after that, their escape out of Germany is complicated, not only by their lack of passports but by Hannah's need to find Miriam's daughter, Ruth, who was left behind when Miriam was taken.
Rebecca Cantrell caught the building tension and horror of the days leading up to Kristallnacht with a vengeance. The implacable and relentless determination of the Reich to eradicate the Jews, the Jewish resolve intermingled with anger and despair, and all through it, the ongoing search for two-year-old Ruth, born of a Jewish mother but with Aryan features, placing her squarely at the center of the spiralling hatred. It would not in the least surprise me to see these books used as textbook examples of what happened during those dark days. Cantrell weaves in so much actual history, it's hard to believe these are works of fiction.
If you haven't read the Hannah Vogel series, let me encourage you to do so. You absolutely need to read them in order, beginning with A Trace of Smoke (Forge, $14.99), Cantrell's writing is powerful, compelling and altogether human. This is a series not to be missed! --Fran
In Rebecca Cantrell's A City of Broken Glass, journalist Hannah Vogel is in Poland with her son Anton to cover the 1938 St. Martin festival when she hears that 12,000 Polish Jews have been deported from Germany. Hannah drops everything to get the story on the refugees, and walks directly into danger.
Kidnapped by the SS, and driven across the German border, Hannah is rescued by Anton and her lover, Lars Lang, who she had presumed dead two years before. Hannah doesn’t know if she can trust Lars again, with her heart or with her life, but she has little choice. Injured in the escape attempt and wanted by the Gestapo, Hannah and Anton are trapped with Lars in Berlin. While Hannah works on an exit strategy, she helps to search for Ruth, the missing toddler of her Jewish friend Paul, who was disappeared during the deportation.
Trapped in Nazi Germany with her son just days before Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, Hannah knows the dangers of staying any longer than needed. But she can’t turn her back on this one little girl, even if it plunges her and her family into danger.
About the Author
Award-winning author REBECCA CANTRELL majored in German, Creative Writing, and History at the Freie Universität of Berlin and Carnegie Mellon University. She currently lives in Hawaii with her husband and son.
Praise for A City of Broken Glass…
Praise for Rebecca Cantrell:"Cantrell’s books are a blast." —Boston Herald on A Game of Lies "Chillingly realistic... There's so much to love about this novel." —USA Today on A Game of Lies
“A race-against-the-clock thriller… Cantrell keeps the close calls and cliff-hangers coming."
—Kirkus Reviews on A Night of Long Knives
“Set in 1931 Berlin, Cantrell’s scrupulously researched debut tolls a somber dirge for Weimar Germany in its last days…this unforgettable novel, which can be as painful to read as the history it foreshadows, builds to an appropriately bittersweet ending.”
—Publishers Weekly, starred review, on A Trace of Smoke