Synopsis: Berlin, 1989. As the wall between East and West falls, Miriam Winter cares for her dying father, Henryk. When he cries out for someone named Frieda – and Miriam discovers an Auschwitz tattoo hidden under his watch strap – Henryk’s secret history begins to unravel.
Searching for more clues of her father’s past, Miriam finds an inmate uniform from the Ravensbrück women’s camp concealed among her mother’s things. Within its seams are dozens of letters to Henryk written by Frieda. The letters reveal the disturbing truth about the ‘Rabbit Girls’, young women experimented on at the camp. And amid their tales of sacrifice and endurance, Miriam pieces together a love story that has been hidden away in Henryk’s heart for almost fifty years.
Inspired by these extraordinary women, Miriam strives to break through the walls she has built around herself. Because even in the darkest of times, hope can survive.
I am a sucker for any books about the Holocaust. I’d go as far as to say I’m a bit obsessed with it. I have been since I was younger and I even went to University to study it, so to say I’ve read a few books about the Holocaust would be a huge understatement.
The book centres around two characters – Miriam and her elderly father, Henryk. Whilst caring for her father, Miriam finds an Auschwitz tattoo on her father’s wrist and he starts to call out for ‘Frieda’, someone who Miriam has never heard of.
The discovery of the tattoo shocks Miriam. She had no idea her father was in Auschwitz and she can’t fathom why he was there in the first place as he isn’t a Jew (At this point, her knowledge of the Holocaust was surprisingly limited as she thought it was only Jews who were persecuted. I found this a bit strange and convenient…..). However, at this point the reader already knows why Henryk was in Auschwitz as this is covered in the previous chapters, which are told from his point of view. These two characters tell their stories directly – Miriam and her father Henryk – and a third tells hers via letters hidden inside the seams and pockets of an inmate’s uniform, which Miriam finds hidden away amongst her mother’s belongings.
Essentially, it’s a story of infidelity, love and finding the inner strength to fight. Which on the face of it sounds like the makings of a good book, right? Nope… not this time. I found the twist fairly obvious and there is nothing more disappointing than figuring out ‘the big twist’ before the author intended you to find out. On top of that, I found somethings to be just a bit too convenient. The book is set during the fall of the Berlin wall and Miriam is in her 30’s. So there would have been plenty of Holocaust survivors alive. Yet, she believed that Jews were the only ones persecuted during the war. Hmmmm, sorry but I’m not buying it!
I also don’t understand the title of the books. The Rabbit Girls were women who were experimented on by the Nazi doctors in the death camps. Taking into account the title of the book, I was expecting the focus of the book to be on them, but they make up a tiny, tiny part of it. Part of me thinks that the title was a marketing technique. If so, it worked because ultimately it’s why I requested it from NetGalley and ultimately, why I feel a bit disappointed in the book…..
Lesson learnt.. Don’t judge a book by it’s title!!