The Beast’s Garden by Kate Forsyth

Title: The Beast’s Garden

the beasts gardenAuthor: Kate Forsyth

Publisher: Random House

Category: Fiction

Pages: 512

Available formats: Print

Publication Date: 3/8/15

Synopsis:

‘Ava fell in love the night the Nazis first showed their true nature to the world …’ 
A retelling of the Grimms’ Beauty and The Beast, set in Nazi Germany.

It’s August 1939 in Germany, and Ava’s world is in turmoil. To save her father, she must marry a young Nazi officer, Leo von Löwenstein, who works for Hitler’s spy chief in Berlin. However, she hates and fears the brutal Nazi regime, and finds herself compelled to stand against it.
Ava joins an underground resistance movement that seeks to help victims survive the horrors of the German war machine. But she must live a double life, hiding her true feelings from her husband, even as she falls in love with him.

Gradually she comes to realise that Leo is part of a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. As Berlin is bombed into ruins, the Gestapo ruthlessly hunt down all resistance and Ava finds herself living hand-to-mouth in the rubble of the shell-shocked city. Both her life and Leo’s hang in the balance.
Filled with danger, intrigue and romance, The Beast’s Garden, a retelling of the Grimm brothers’ ‘Beauty and The Beast’, is a beautiful, compelling love story set in a time when the world seemed on the brink of collapse.

Kate Forsyth weaves fairy tales into history again in her latest offering, The Beast’s Garden. Set in Germany in The Second World War, Ava is thrust into a world of horrors under the Nazi regime. Her world begins to fall apart the Night of The Broken Glass, and as her best friend and father are arrested. To save her father, she weds a Nazi Officer, Leo von Löwenstein. Ava’s horror at the Nazi regime inspires her to join an underground resistance movement, helping the victims, yet hiding this double life from her husband.

As she realises Leo is part of a conspiracy to assassinate Hitler, and Berlin is bombed indiscriminately into rubble. Ava is forced to live in the rubble, hand to mouth as the Gestapo hunts down any and all resistance to the regime plaguing Germany.

Kate Forsyth set the Grimm brothers tale, “The Singing, Springing Lark” against this dark period in history. We bear witness to these atrocities through the eyes of Ava, starting when she is nineteen and the fear and danger she encounters trying to help her friends and family, to keep them safe.

The underground resistance Ava joins is peppered with real life figures that fought the Nazi regime, who defied Hitler and who would stand their ground to the death to bring about peace in Germany. Figures such as Libertas Schulze-Boysen and her husband, the Abwher and other figures involved in the Valkyrie plot, and resistance movements such as The Red Orchestra, the movement Libertas and her husband, Harro, were a part of are present in the novel, and though the interactions between these characters and Ava, and the Gestapo, the Goebbels and Mildred Harnack, the only American woman executed by the Nazi regime, add an authenticity to the novel, placing it in the time and place effectively.

The style and substance of the narrative marries perfectly with the history behind it, and the pacing is set so well, that as a reader, one is swept away into action and fear, love and family, and at some stages, an uneasy sense of something being over yet something just as horrible, just as traumatising just around the corner. The climatic end of the book has even pacing, and keeps the reader turning the page until the finale, the peace and sorrow that comes from war.

I thoroughly enjoyed the integration of fairy tale, history and imagination in this latest offering from Kate Forsyth. An engrossing read, it was one that I didn’t want to end yet couldn’t wait to see what happened.

Paving the New Road by Sulari Gentill

rowly-4Book Title: Paving the New Road (Rowland Sinclair, #4)

Author: Sulari Gentill

Publisher: Pantera Press

Genre: Crime, Historical Fiction

Release Date: August 1st, 2012

Book Synopsis: It’s 1933, and the political landscape of Europe is darkening.

Eric Campbell, the man who would be Australia’s Führer, is on a fascist tour of the Continent, meeting dictators over cocktails and seeking allegiances in a common cause. Yet the Australian way of life is not undefended. Old enemies have united to undermine Campbell’s ambitions. The clandestine armies of the Establishment have once again mobilised to thwart any friendship with the Third Reich.

But when their man in Munich is killed, desperate measures are necessary.

Now Rowland Sinclair must travel to Germany to defend Australian democracy from the relentless march of Fascism. Amidst the goosestepping euphoria of a rising Nazi movement, Rowland encounters those who will change the course of history. In a world of spies, murderers and despotic madmen, he can trust no-one but an artist, a poet and a brazen sculptress.

Plots thicken, loyalties are tested and bedfellows become strange indeed

~*~

My fourth sojourn with Rowland, Milt, Edna and Clyde took me away from Sydney, and into Nazi Germany, in 1933. The flight with Kingsford-Smith and the ensuing journey set up the identities that the friends were entering the Fascist nation under the iron fist of Hitler on quite well, and their encounters with historical figures and authors along their journey to prevent Eric Campbell from bringing Nazism back to the shores of Australia that further entrenches the story within the historical context it sits within. Rowland’s trip to Germany sees him taking his brother, Wilfred’s place, for the same task for the Old Guard to stop Campbell’s attempts to introduce Hitler’s ideology to Australia. In this book, rather than disdain for his brother, Wilfred expresses concern at the task Rowland has been asked to take on to save him, and the nation, but nonetheless, provides the support his brother needs for the dangerous expedition to Munich and the Third Reich, following the death of the Old Guard’s previous man posted there. The events of 1933 in Germany were instantly familiar to me, having studied them before. I was immersed in the world so deeply, that it penetrated my dreams. The Third Reich period of history, though horrific in many ways, is fascinating as a study into the horrors that the human race is truly capable of if we blindly follow and believe a leader and their ideology, or turn the other way.

In Munich, Rowland encounters Nancy Wake, Unity Mitford and Albert Goring, amongst other figures, mixed up in the mess of the Third Reich and their book burnings, and the beginnings of the expulsion of Jews, Communists and anyone else that the Nazi Party deems unfavourable. These three figures are fighting against it , in such a way that people believe they are actually supporting it: perhaps the best sort of espionage there is…as long as you don’t get caught. It is these atrocities that bring Rowland into direct contact with what extreme politics can really do, despite his adventures in the previous three novels and his constant indifference. The character development of Rowland and his friends in this novel was executed brilliantly. Their run-ins with the SA and Rohm lead to a finale that had me reading until I had finished the book, well into the late night-time hours, unable to put the book aside until I knew Rowland’s fate.

Poor Rowland has been through so much in these four books, always finding himself at the wrong end of the people he is investigating or spying on, but like a true hero, he always comes through, injured, but alive. Rowland has been and will continue to be a favourite character of Australian literature, and I look forward to reading his further adventures. Sulari Gentill has the ability to entrench her readers within the world of Rowland and Woodlands Estate, or wherever Rowland happens to be where crimes are being committed. Books five and six await, and I am eager for book seven when it makes its appearance.