by MJ Burr
The Fourth Reich growing in New Zealand? Stuff of fantasies, mate. Not a chance. Nah. Couldn’t happen. Could it?
Don’t judge a book by its cover is the phrase and I’ve never mentioned a book’s cover in a review before but, I have to say, this cover is the most impressive of any book I’ve reviewed for FlaxFlower. It’s atmospheric and it drew me to open the pages.
The first couple of chapters are a gritty, absorbing introduction to this novel. Part One itself is tight, visceral with plenty of well-written and researched history. Great characters with complexities, the combatants of World War Two showing us neither side came out of the war without some very unsettling events staining their histories.
Joe Vukovic, of Maori/Croatian descent is thrown into the role of patriot, resistance fighter against the Germans. He witnesses and is personally impacted by the events of 1943, when the Totenkopf Division of the Waffen SS, in a retaliatory response, massacre the remaining inhabitants of the Croat village of Lipa. Joe’s pregnant fiancée is gunned downed by the officer in charge and Joe, unable to help her, becomes a vengeful spirit with a death-wish.
Years after the war, Joe finds a measure peace in Northland, the memory of Lipa and his fiancée, though, have never been forgotten. Joe shapes his life around trying to discover what happened to the SS officer Jager. Events and discoveries begin to offer proof of the seemingly impossible – the Fourth Reich has a foothold in Northland.
There are some lovely lines in this book. Page 8 …luxuries wrapped as necessities… is a beautifully placed piece of black, black humour. Further through, the likening of Simon Wiesenthal to a waiting stork is lovely, too.
I learned more about the depravity of the Nazi regime and its ideals. The Lebensborn programme was startling. Burr gives us a fascinating premise. We know New Zealand was on Hitler’s radar, German submarines prowled our coastlines and harbours. That something like this story could have happened has been written very believably.
The domestic situations are nicely written, too. Joe’s growth as a man damaged after the traumatic events of his war years is well presented. Broken relationships, changed relationships are all represented here. Redemption through vengeance and all the moral complications such a path brings are highlighted through several characters. All too often German soldiers from World War Two are portrayed as one-dimensional baddies. Burr never falls into that easy route, giving his readers much more to think about.
A very interesting read which had me reaching for the history books.
Much thanks to MJ Burr for the opportunity to review this well-written book.
Author: MJ Burr
Publisher: ClioWrite Limited
RRP: $33 Paperback; $4.99 Kindle
Available: Amazon: Kindle US$4.99, Paperback US$19.99
Author: Kindle NZ$4.99, Paperback NZ$33 email@example.com