Title: The Kommandant’s Girl
Author: Pam Jenoff
Published: February 2007
Summary: Newlyweds Emma and Jacob are forced to live apart when Jacob decides to leave Emma behind in order to join the Nazi resistance efforts in their home country of Poland. Emma is left to fend for herself, but Jacob tries to ensure her safety by setting her up with an identity to hide her Jewish heritage. Her new identity is that of a gentile girl named Anna, sent to live with Jacob’s aunt. Together, the two of them work to hide Emma’s true identity, including securing her a job as the assistant to the Nazi Kommandant. Along the way, Emma does what she can to contribute to the resistance, but her identity of Anna starts to seep into her life, especially her feelings for the Kommandant.
Thoughts: I didn’t have many expectations going into this book, I just knew that I was behind on the June book club pick and needed to pick it up and dive right in. I was delighted to discover how much I enjoyed this book, and it turned out to be the perfect beach read for me while on vacation. Watching Emma navigate life as Anna was scary and exciting. Reconciling her three weeks as a wife compared to her extended time as a gentile had me vacillating between wanting her to stay true to her husband and feeling like he abandoned her. Her entanglement with the Kommandant was complicated and led to an internal battle for Emma, which I felt in full effect. The Kommandant was a powerful Nazi officer impacting the violence and death against Emma’s people, however, he was kind and gentlemanly toward Emma and made it easy to see why she may develop real feelings for him. Pam Jenoff did a great job at making the Kommandant appealing. Emma also tried to contribute to the resistance efforts, especially given her proximity to the Kommandant and the passages when she risked everything for these jobs had my heart pumping and the pages turning. In a sea of literature saturated with WWII novels, this is a pretty good one. It’s an interesting perspective that isn’t altogether uncommon, but one that isn’t always done this well. I would give the WWII novel a green light, which was also the consensus among my mom and sisters.
Next Month’s Pick: Bird