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Our Darkest Night by Jennifer Robson
Genre: Historical Romance Fiction | My Review Rating: ♥♥♥♥
384 Pages | Published: January 5 2021 by William Morrow
Book Jacket Synopsis
To survive the Holocaust, a young Jewish woman must pose as a Christian farmer’s wife in this unforgettable novel from USA Today bestselling author Jennifer Robson—a story of terror, hope, love, and sacrifice, inspired by true events, that vividly evokes the most perilous days of World War II.
It is the autumn of 1943, and life is becoming increasingly perilous for Italian Jews like the Mazin family. With Nazi Germany now occupying most of her beloved homeland, and the threat of imprisonment and deportation growing ever more certain, Antonina Mazin has but one hope to survive—to leave Venice and her beloved parents and hide in the countryside with a man she has only just met.
Nico Gerardi was studying for the priesthood until circumstances forced him to leave the seminary to run his family’s farm. A moral and just man, he could not stand by when the fascists and Nazis began taking innocent lives. Rather than risk a perilous escape across the mountains, Nina will pose as his new bride. And to keep her safe and protect secrets of his own, Nico and Nina must convince prying eyes they are happily married and in love.
But farm life is not easy for a cultured city girl who dreams of becoming a doctor like her father, and Nico’s provincial neighbors are wary of this soft and educated woman they do not know. Even worse, their distrust is shared by a local Nazi official with a vendetta against Nico. The more he learns of Nina, the more his suspicions grow—and with them his determination to exact revenge.
As Nina and Nico come to know each other, their feelings deepen, transforming their relationship into much more than a charade. Yet both fear that every passing day brings them closer to being torn apart . . .
Book Links: Amazon
- Your actions today will make a difference. To this man, and also to his family. To all the people he will go on to help in the months to come. And it’s by such actions that you tip the scales in our favor. A few grams today, a few more tomorrow. That is how we will prevail. p.180
- Her thirst still consumed her. Emptied her. Hollowed her out. Left her thin and fragile, a scrap of paper crumpled in an indifferent first, discarded, and left to dissolved underfoot. p.287
- Her arm was pulled forward. Her names was replaced with a number. She could only stare, astonished, at the blank-faced man with his needle and pot of ink. At the marks he was driving into her skin. The pain was nothing compared to the sight of those indelible digits. She had been reduced to a number. A line in a ledger. A piece on an assembly line, only here, in this place of death, she was being taken apart, layer by layer, until nothing but her soul remained. p.295
Review & Thoughts
Initial Thoughts: Historical Fiction is not a genre I generally pick up as an entertaining read. A local book club group recently had an opening to join and this was the current book selection. I quickly purchased a copy to join in the discussion!
Themes, Elements & Review Notes: This book was essentially presented in two parts; an unlikely romance followed by a horrific historical event. I was surprised at what a quick read this was, especially for a historical fiction novel. After the discussion with my book club, I realized the fact that it was quick read was due to a lack of details and depth in the story. Part of the book was an interesting view on a historical period in time and part of it was perspective on a truly terrible event that took place in history.
Reading this book gave me a renewed appreciation for modern conveniences, such as taking a hot shower or bath. Warm clean water! I can’t imagine a day of hard manual labor in general but especially without taking a shower at the end of the it.
Overall, I was glad I read this. The topic of the story was completely heart-wrenching and incredibly sad. As I mentioned, I don’t read a lot of historical fiction and didn’t have much to compare it to but I would say it was a good introduction to historical fiction for someone that enjoys fiction that wants to get their feet wet with a new genre. The story itself was enjoyable but the writing was a bit lacking in backstory and necessary character development for Nico. It had some areas that were unrealistic and far-fetched but it had redeeming qualities, such as the relationship between Nina and Stella.
Side Note: I didn’t realize until about a third of the way in that because the book took place in Italy, the characters were meant to be speaking Italian, even though the book is obviously written in English. I don’t know if this is common for historical fiction but it didn’t occur to me that it wasn’t in English!
In a Nutshell: Our Darkest Night was a story about clinging to to hope in a hopeless and bleak situation. Thoughts of love and ordinary life brought a semblance of joy during the darkest days of despair. This was a surprisingly quick read and overall it’s a good pick for a non-historical fiction reader to get their feet wet with historical fiction.
Book Format & Source: Paperback copy purchased from Amazon [Read with a Book Club group but joined after the book was gifted by the publisher and thus purchased my own copy.]
About Jennifer Robson
From the Author’s website:
An academic by background, a former editor by profession, and a lifelong history nerd, I am lucky enough to now call myself a full-time writer. I’m the author of six novels set during and after the two world wars: Somewhere in France, After the War is Over, Moonlight Over Paris, Goodnight from London, The Gown, and Our Darkest Night: A Novel of Italy and the Second World War. I was also a contributor to the acclaimed anthology Fall of Poppies: Stories of Love and the Great War.
I studied French literature and Modern History as an undergraduate at King’s University College at Western University, then attended Saint Antony’s College at the University of Oxford, where I obtained my doctorate in British economic and social history. While at Oxford I was a Commonwealth Scholar and SSHRC Doctoral Fellow.
I am represented by Kevan Lyon of the Marsal Lyon Agency and my personal publicist is Kathleen Carter of Kathleen Carter Communications.
I live in Toronto, Canada, with my husband and children, and share my home office with Ellie the sheepdog and her feline companions Sam and Mika.
Visit the author’s website: https://jennifer-robson.com/
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