The Kommandant’s Girl
Park Row Books, December 2018
Pam Jenoff is a wonderful writer. Here she tackles a serious, emotionally dangerous deep penetration into relationships that occurred during world events which continue to haunt and influence our lives.
Three weeks after her marriage to Jacob, Emma Bau, nineteen, watches German tanks and troop carriers roll into her Polish town. Through a series of circumstances she goes to live in Krakow with a Catholic woman and must conceal her Jewish roots. Soon, the Polish resistance pressures her to take advantage of her circumstances to work for the local Gestapo office, headed by a handsome, young Nazi. They become a couple.
The questions raised thus get to some of the fundamental beliefs and attitudes we have about that period. Were there good Germans in that service who tried their best to mitigate the policies of the German occupying forces? Did anyone on the other side ever show compassion or should they all have been irrevocably condemned? Was every member of the Polish resistance a “good guy—or woman”?
The author plumbs some of these questions while offering a thoughtful, careful and in-depth novel. Its scenes move rapidly through the countryside, the characters are deeply and well-conceived, the rollercoaster of danger ridden by the characters is often mesmerizing. Read this satisfying novel and if you enjoy it as much as I suspect you will, find other excellent novels from this author.