The German Midwife
By Mandy Robotham
Brought to you by OBS reviewer Andra
A prisoner in the camps, Anke Hoff is doing what she can to keep her pregnant campmates and their newborns alive.
But when Anke’s work is noticed, she is chosen for a task more dangerous than she could ever have imagined. Eva Braun is pregnant with the Führer’s child, and Anke is assigned as her midwife.
Before long, Anke is faced with an impossible choice. Does she serve the Reich she loathes and keep the baby alive? Or does she sacrifice an innocent child for the good of a broken world? (Goodreads)
The German Midwife by Mandy Robotham is a book which caught and held my attention throughout the entire book. Set in 1944 Germany, Anke Hoff’s work as a midwife is put to good use in the concentration camp she is in. She helps other woman prisoners give birth and enjoy but a brief moment or two with their infant before the baby is taken from them.
The following evoked powerful emotions as one realizes that the women in the camp never had a chance with their babies. What a toll that must have put on these women.
“At each birth I severed a wisp of the baby’s hair, while Graunia had spirited away a printing pad and some paper (she got two days in solitary for her incompetence at the ‘stationery count’), and we were able to create hand- and footprints as memories. It was a poor substitute, but as they cradled the precious paper, the women held on to a brief life that became history-tangible and real. For some, in their post-birth grief and madness, it was the only thing that tethered them to reality.”
As a result of her good work, Anke gets noticed and is then chosen for a special assignment – to become the midwife to Eva Braun, who is carrying the Fuhrer’s child. Anke is then brought from the camp to a very different world, a world of luxury and excesses on top of a mountain retreat (Berghof in the Bavarian Alps) where she has only one patient to care for.
At the beginning of a growing relationship between Anke and Dieter (a good-looking, caring SS officer working for the Fuhrer) – my senses were evoked fully over Anke’s reaction to the first “good cup of coffee” she had in quite a while when they were at the café in town:
“The waitress saved any awkward silence by arriving with the coffee. The smell knocked me sideways – deep and rich, taste and promise rising as the deep mocha broke the surface of lightly frothed milk – evoking images and memories of real life before the war.”
When Eva finally gives birth, there were powerful descriptions which evoked memories of childbirth (in fact, there is quite a bit of discussions and dialogue about child bearing and birth):
“How to describe a contraction, the feeling as a web of muscles squeezes together to create a sensation that to an outsider looks like the worst pathology, but it is perfectly natural? Midwives struggled, with or without their own experience, to paint any picture. I was careful to pepper my conversation with positives, aware that Eva could opt for a caesarean at any point, at the intense peak of the journey, and the doctors would be ready to comply, eager to ensure the safety of the Führer’s baby at any cost.”
While this is a definitely a work of fiction, it certainly made this reader wonder what if Hitler did have a love child?
I found the writing of Mandy Robotham flowed well, keeping my interest to the extent that I found it difficult to put this book down. As a debut novel, Ms. Robotham has outdone herself. If you are a fan of historical fiction, then I highly recommend The German Midwife.