The German Wife by Kelly Rimmer
The New York Times bestselling author of The Warsaw Orphan returns with a gripping novel inspired by the true story of Operation Paperclip: a controversial secret US intelligence program that employed former Nazis after WWII. (From the publisher.)
The German Wife may be my new favorite historical fiction read from 2022. With its breathtaking characters and research, this novel was moving, poignant, and thought-provoking. Sure to prompt further discussion, this novel is bound to be a popular choice for book club picks this fall.
This was my first read by Kelly Rimmer but it certainly won’t be my last. The German Wife follows two different women, Sofie and Lizzie, from the 1930s until the 1950s. Each of these characters were highly flawed but masterfully nuanced, and managed to creep under your skin, evoking a wide range of emotional response.
Given the dual-timeline, multi-character perspective, readers are confronted by the impact of war on both sides of the ocean — from the perspective of Sofie in Berlin and Lizzie in the United States. Both main characters have been shaped and changed by war and hardship. This collision of personal history and misunderstanding brings a rich plot full of controversy and heartache. The story explores themes of prejudice and hatred, accountability and absolution, and the cost of sacrifice — and it was absolutely riveting from the first to last page.
The novel was expertly written. It’s clear that Rimmer has a solid grasp on this historical time period and that was evident throughout the story. Her settings were vivid and intense, equally transporting readers from the Dust Bowl of the 1930s, to the slow erosion of society under the Nazi oppression in Germany. There were also some fascinating historical nuggets such as the rocket program and Operation Paperclip.
For fans of historical fiction, this is an absolute must-read. Confronting, challenging, and illuminating, this story will linger long after the final page.
Readers who enjoy WWII-era historical fiction.
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. ARC provided courtesy of the publisher, Harper Collins Canada. All opinions expressed are my own.
About the book:
(From the publisher) Berlin, Germany, 1930—When the Nazis rise to power, Sofie von Meyer Rhodes and her academic husband benefit from the military ambitions of Germany’s newly elected chancellor when Jürgen is offered a high-level position in their burgeoning rocket program. Although they fiercely oppose Hitler’s radical views, and joining his ranks is unthinkable, it soon becomes clear that if Jürgen does not accept the job, their income will be taken away. Then their children. And then their lives.
Huntsville, Alabama, 1950—Twenty years later, Jürgen is one of many German scientists pardoned and granted a position in America’s space program. For Sofie, this is a chance to leave the horrors of her past behind. But when rumors about the Rhodes family’s affiliation with the Nazi party spread among her new American neighbors, idle gossip turns to bitter rage, and the act of violence that results tears apart a family and leaves the community wondering—is it an act of vengeance or justice?