Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Book review : The Winter Garden - Jane Thynne

The Winter Garden is the second novel by Jane Thynne featuring Clara Vine, a young English woman living in Berlin in the tense period just before the Second World War, when the Third Reich and Hitler were just finding their feet and flexing their muscles. As I explained in my review of the first book, Black Roses, Clara is a complex character, working as an actress but also in the delicate situation of being a bit of a double agent despite herself - the Nazi wives have more or less reluctantly taken her into their dirndl-clad bosom (encouraged by some of the top-ranking husbands who appreciate her charms) but she has also been recruited by the British Intelligence Service to share any nuggets of wisdom that her dubious new friendships may reveal.

In this book, we discover the Stepford Wives-esque Bride School, where the fiancées of Nazi officers learn to become good Third Reich wives, with lessons encompassing everything a good little wife needs, from cooking and cleaning to childcare and the benefits of cold water baths and exercise in the fresh air. When one of the brides, a former actress, is murdered and it turns out that Clara knew her, she comes into possession of a writing desk that some people are apparently willing to go to any lengths to recover. Clara finds herself in even more danger than usual as she tries to unravel the mystery and keep herself, and those she loves, safe.

I found it to be an enjoyable read, with some chilling moments and a real sense of the tense, uneasy atmosphere of 1930's Berlin. I'm always slightly perturbed by the sex scenes - not because they're particularly raunchy but because I always though sex before marriage was a big no-no in these times so they seem out of place - but judging by the number of swift marriages with Canadian and American WW2 servicemen that I uncovered when researching my family history, maybe this is just me being naive ! Clara's love interest from the first novel has returned to England and I really couldn't warm to her new beau. I also didn't like her fake Nazi love interest, partly because he was portrayed as a typical villain but also beause his magnanimity when not revealing her hidden identity when he got the chance seemed unlikely.

If you like the idea of crime fiction with a historical background and some famous historical figures putting in cameo appearances, it's definitely a series that you will enjoy. This is supposed to be a trilogy so I'm looking forward to reading the final tome, as I'm sure it will have a few surprises up its booksleeve !

You can also see author Jane Thynne talking about The Winter Garden in the video below.

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £14.99

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK (13 Feb 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1849839875
  • ISBN-13: 978-1849839877
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 16 x 3.6 cm

Disclosure : I received a review copy of the book.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Book review : The Collected Works of AJ Fikry - Gabrielle Levin

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