Catherine Hokin

Författare till The Fortunate Ones

13 verk 178 medlemmar 8 recensioner


Verk av Catherine Hokin

The Fortunate Ones (2020) 70 exemplar, 3 recensioner
What Only We Know (2020) 54 exemplar, 2 recensioner
The Commandant's Daughter (2022) 26 exemplar, 1 recension
The Secretary (2021) 10 exemplar
The Lost Mother (2021) 4 exemplar
The Girl in the Photo (2023) 4 exemplar
The Pilot's Girl (2022) 2 exemplar
Blood and Roses (2016) 1 exemplar, 1 recension
All Who Wander (2021) 1 exemplar
Měli štěstí 1 exemplar


Allmänna fakta




I dislike it when authors resort to making the husband's behavior overly brutish so that the reader doesn’t mind so much when the wife steps out or leaves the marriage. It borders on over-use in the WWII genre, in my opinion. Not that I doubt such men in the Nazi Party could be abusive, not to down play spousal abuse, just saying that it irks me when I feel the plot strings being pulled in such a manner. This story being more of the same in that way.
What I did like about this book was the writing. The conversations between men and women, the way the relationships were explored, was enjoyable. Felix was more interesting to me as a character than Inge.

“His mother's tale about meeting his father, trotted out at birthdays and anniversaries. “And there he was and there was I: right where I was meant to be.” The story made him blush when he was little and made him sad now, but Kerstin still smiled when she told it. “Me for him and him for me and no one else ever needed.” Which nothing changed and never could. There was beauty in its certainty. There he was and there was I. There was magic in that.”
… (mer)
VictoriaPL | 2 andra recensioner | Mar 5, 2024 |
Author Catherine Hokin published her first novel in 2016, and has since penned eight more, including the four-volume Hanni Winter series. The stories she tells are mostly set in Berlin, Germany, from 1933 to the fall of the Berlin Wall, “dealing with the long shadows left by war.” That time period is “endlessly fascinating” and permits her to spend time in one of her favorite cities. A self-professed “history geek,” as was her father, she holds a degree in history. Originally from the North of England, she resides in Glasgow, Scotland.

Hokin says The German Child is a book she has long wanted to write, The story was inspired when, while researching a prior novel, she happened upon a photograph of the Brown Sisters – Nazi child catchers. They were a group of women who were specially trained by the Third Reich and then dispatched to Poland and other parts of Europe, rounding up the children in each city or town and subjecting them to a selection process. Those who possessed the sixty-two Aryan traits specified in a physical characteristics test were forcibly removed from their families and underwent Aryanization; those who did not were either murdered or transported to camps where they were forced to perform grueling physical labor and, eventually, many also died. Some 200,000 children were kidnapped in Poland alone. Following the war, less than twenty per cent of the surviving children were reunited with their families.

The Lebensborn initiative was part of a “racially-based program of social engineering designed to redraw the face of Europe,” the architect of which was Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler. It was his “personal project” and “an integral part of the Third Reich’s ‘racial purity crusade’ to rid the world of anyone who was not deemed “pure,” designed to repopulate it with “good” families. Pregnant young women, most of whom were unmarried and socially stigmatized, were recruited with promises of financial support and medical care. They resided in one of twenty-six facilities within which at least 17,000 children were born for the purpose of furthering Germany’s goal of “securing the ‘right’ genetic future for the Reich” and handed off to be raised by Germans deemed worthy.

As The German Child opens in December 1979, Evie Ritter, a seasoned thirty-five-year-old divorced attorney, has landed her dream job with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Special Investigations. In operation for a mere six weeks, the OSI’s mission is investigating suspected war crimes and prosecuting the perpetrators. Her workload is already overwhelming, as the OSI is inundated with requests for assistance, including from parents whose children were lost during the war and adults who suspect that the family histories they have heard their whole lives are works of fiction. Were they really born in America? Did their parents or other relatives commit or participate in wartime atrocities? Evie calls those seeking such assistance “the lost.”

Evie quickly becomes enmeshed in the case of Sebastian Taylor, a curator for the Smithsonian, when he appears in her office and announces, “I am a Lebensborn child. . . . I was born to be a soldier for Hitler, a leader of the Reich.” Sebastian produces a silver christening cup on which his birthday is engraved, along with “Vom Patenonkel, H. Himmler,” meaning “godfather.” In other words, he is Himmler’s godson. He explains that he has always known he was born in Germany, but believed that his father, with whom he had a loving relationship, “was one of the good ones.” On the very day his died, when Sebastian was just twelve years old, he learned that the cold, unkind woman he grew up believing was his mother was actually his stepmother and “I was my father’s Lebensborn bastard.” On that day, Sebastian became lost, with no understanding of his real identity. And he wants the OSI to help him find his birth mother because the “scale of the Lebensborn program, and what it really intended, is just starting to leak out.’ So, he argues, even though his quest is a decidedly personal one, the OSI’s resources can be devoted to finding the thousands of others “whose lives have been built on a lie.” Sebastian also believes that at least one of the Nazi women involved in the program may be living and working in the United States, based on a comment his stepmother made about a women’s health clinic: “So Himmler’s little pet talked herself in here too. . . . God help any of those mothers she gets near; she won’t let the wrong ones survive.”

A separate narrative relates the story of Helene Tellman, a beautiful and powerful child catcher who, with the Brown Sisters’ assistance, has achieved great success and earned the favor of the highest leaders in the Nazi party. She is a true believer, committed to “ridding Poland of the children who are no use to the Reich in order to make space for the German babies who will require its land and resources,” and proud of her ability to “ferret out a hidden Jewish child in a heartbeat” when terrified parents attempt to conceal their children from her. Most of the children she selects ultimately pass the physical characteristics test. And for the few who don’t, there is “plenty of space in the ovens for small bodies.” In fact, Helene brings two of Himmler’s mobile gas vans with her so that the children she targets can be “dead and buried before their mothers have time to miss them.” Helene’s duties also include supervising the birth and placement of the thousands of children born in the Lebensborn facilities.

Helene is a thirty-one-year-old physician and her 1943 wedding to Ulrich Reitter, a handsome rocket scientist working on the weapon the Nazis believe will enable them to win the war, is a public spectacle held at the stately and elegant Edel Hotel. Himmler, rather than her “too ordinary” father, walks her down the aisle and the union of the “ideal couple” is an important element of a propaganda campaign intended to convince Germans that the war effort is not floundering. For Helene, her marriage accomplishes two specific goals. It pleases her boss, who has pressured her to marry, and ensures her continued work. Although she has no desire to have children, it is expected. She and Ulrich are deeply in love and committed to each other, as well as their roles in the Third Reich. He agrees that they will have one child, rather than the four Himmler expects, and then get on with their lives, with Helene resolving to “pay other people to be what I won’t be to it.” But she gives birth “to a useless girl in a world which only values men,” and feels she has failed. She planned to produce a son, “a soldier for the Fuhrer. . . . She could have loved a boy,” but has no interest in her daughter and resumes her work immediately. But there is now a bounty on her head. She is a target of the resistance that calls her “Aniol Šmierci. The Angel of Death.” Which makes it more challenging to carry out her operations.

Worse, as the war drags on, it becomes increasingly clear that Germany is nearing defeat, and Ulrich and his fellow scientists have displeased Himmler with their failure to perfect the V2 rocket that the Nazis are banking on to secure victory. Ulrich is assigned to work at the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp where thousands of prisoners of war descend deep into the mines every day . . . but many of them never emerge. They are simply replaced with arriving trainloads of slaves. Inside the mountain, missiles are being constructed amid fourteen miles of tunnels. But Helene and Ulrich know that the end of the Third Reich is inevitable, and they are determined to evade prison cells or, worse, death sentences for having committed war crimes. Luckily for them, the United States is willing to offer deals to scientists with valuable knowledge and skills that will help defeat Russia in the race to space. Operation Paperclip is admitting elite rocket and atomic specialists into America, providing them new identities and jobs – and obliterating their criminal histories.

Evie, the child of Helen and Alex Ritter, the director of a women’s health clinic and a rocket scientist, grew up in a wealthy area of Birmingham, Alabama, a city known for its segregation policies. Helen is admired for her work in a clinic situated in a less affluent and diverse part of town that provides services to needy women and their children. Evie has always been led to believe that her parents “fled” Switzerland, a claim that never made sense to her because that country took no active part in the war and was spared from attacks. In their home, there are no family photographs, and Evie’s parents have consistently refused to discuss family history. Evie’s innocent inquiries exasperate her mother, who insists, “Everything’s been lost. Everyone who mattered is long gone. Can that please be an end to it?” Her whole life, her parents have been cold, detached, uninterested in her and, as a child, Evie longed to be admitted into their “two-person world” and showered with the love they displayed for each other. Instead, she was cared for by others. Her contact with her parents since leaving home seventeen years ago has been sporadic, and largely a function of duty and responsibility rather than affection.

When Evie’s boss authorizes her to pursue the search for Sebastian’s mother, she travels with him to East Berlin. It is a frightening, intimidating place and they are warned that the first official visit to the American Embassy by a representative of the OSI will be monitored carefully by the Stasi, the German Democratic Republic’s secret police who do, in fact, follow and observe them. Despite complications, the trip yields important – and shocking – evidence. Perusing documents in search of information about the Lebensborn program, Evie finds a newspaper dated February 20, 1943. A front page photograph bears the images of the top leaders of the Third Reich — Hitler, Goebbels, Himmler, and Güring gaze proudly at a uniformed groom and his stunning bride. Even having grown up without seeing old photographs of her parents, Evie knows she is staring at a picture not of Helene Tillman and Ulrich Reitter, as they are identified in the caption, but of Helen and Alex Ritter.

When they meet, Evie and Sebastian are immediately drawn to each other. Both wounded not just from their respective upbringings, but also their painful divorces, they are cautious and tentative with each other. Sebastian is navigating an existential crisis, searching for his birth mother, and attempting to come to terms with the truth about the circumstances surrounding his conception and birth. He is striving to reconcile his discovery of his father’s true identity and affiliation with the Nazi party with his own self-concept. Is he worthy of love? Will he be accepted when others learn he is a Lebensborn child?

Unexpectedly, Evie finds herself in a comparable situation. Evie’s sense that her parents lied to her about their identities and backgrounds is validated, but that brings no satisfaction. The photograph confirms that they had to be highly placed within the leadership of the Third Reich, raising questions about their activities during the war. Did they commit war crimes? If so, the irony is both remarkable and deeply unsettling. Their own daughter is a member of a team of government officials charged with finding and bringing war criminals to justice. Was she really born in America? If she was born in Germany, she is not a United States citizen. What will that mean for the life she has created for herself — her career and, more particularly, her position at OSI?

Evie and Sebastian’s struggles are compelling fictional representations of the real experiences of Lebensborn victims. “For too many of the thousands of children born in the homes, life has been a constant battle to find answers and overcome prejudice,” according to Hokin. “In Norway in particular, where there were ten Lebensborn homes, the ‘children of shame’ have faced a long struggle for respect and rehabilitation.” Hokin believably demonstrates that Evie’s commitment to her beliefs, ideals, and profession are as solid and unshakable – integral to her core identity — as are Helene’s. They are both indomitable women . . . but opposite sides of the same coin. One is intent on carrying out a morally abhorrent and despicable agenda, and the other is determined to stop her.

The German Child is thoroughly researched, grounded in horrifying actual events and their aftermath. Hokin’s characters are credible, fully developed and, in the case of Evie and Sebastian, appropriately sympathetic. Helene, conversely, is the repulsive embodiment of evil. Through Evie and Sebastian, Hokin examines the far-reaching “long shadows left by war” that she, like other lovers of historical fiction, finds “endlessly fascinating.” The story is fast-paced and Hokin increases the dramatic tension as Evie, undaunted by the danger in which she places herself, pursues the whole unvarnished truth and seeks justice.

The German Child is a riveting, emotional tale through which Hokin challenges readers to ponder what they would do should they suddenly discover that everything they thought they knew about their family members’ history proved to be not just false, but shrouded in appalling crimes against humanity. Like Evie and Sebastian, Hokin invites readers to explore the extent to which one’s identity is derived from family and how much of one’s self-concept is independently formed by acquired beliefs and values.

Hokin writes that the myriad ways the Third Reich’s unspeakable policies “resulted in a Europe-wide and ongoing well of suffering, continues to take my breath away.” Her compassion for the characters she creates, and dedication to evoking a strong emotional response from her readers is evident on every page and completely successful. Absorbing and memorable, The German Child is a must-read volume for fans of World War II-era historical fiction.

Thanks to NetGalley for an Advance Reader's Copy of the book.
… (mer)
JHSColloquium | Jan 25, 2024 |
Thanks to Catherine Hokin, Bookouture, and Netgalley for the chance to review this advanced copy in return for an honest review.

Hanni Winter is a photographer who came into her craft during her former life in World War II. In her former life, she is Hannahlore Foss, daughter of SS Commandant Reiner Foss, a man who oversaw the horrors of the Theresienstadt ghetto. When Hanni learned what kind of man he was and what he was capable of she made an oath that she would show the world who he was and what he had done.

Years later, Hanni is working as a photographer when she comes upon a dead body and ends up working with the police to determine what happened. This dead body was that of a former SS officer who was not held responsible for his actions. This begins the run of a serial killer set on holding these men responsible.

The beginning of this book had a lot of promise and kept my attention. Once we got to the second half of the book, it lost a lot of steam. The serial killer storyline could have been wrapped up in fewer chapters and I would have preferred that the Reiner storyline was wrapped up. It was a decent read but not something I would go out of my way to read again.
… (mer)
Micareads | Jun 21, 2022 |
This book tugged at my heartstrings! I could place myself in Karen's shoes as she made the difficult decision to put her father in a home and begin the tedious task of selling his home. This, of course, has her finding things about her father she was previously unaware of.

The dual POV kept the story moving and kept me wanting to see how things turned out for everyone.

Thank you Bookouture and Netgalley for allowing me to read this and give my honest opinion.
Jynell | 1 annan recension | Feb 24, 2022 |



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