This was #2 on my list of My Top 7 Books of 2020. Again, Historical Novels Review must have agreed with me because this book was another of their Editor’s Choices. It is the writing debut of the talented Amy Lynn Green, who managed to create a compelling story and vivid characters in a 100% epistolary novel. It is a work of art.
It is 1944, and Johanna Berglund has been accused of treason. She submits in her defense a collection of letters that will prove her innocence. The letters begin with Johanna as a linguistics student at the University of Minnesota. Fluent in German and several other languages, she is recommended to work as a translator at an Army POW camp near her home. She flatly refuses because she has other plans and dreams of going to Oxford. Pressure from the government and her parents eventually forces her to go. She begins her work as a translator and starts to enjoy it, despite criticism from some of the local populace about “aiding the enemy.” She is given more responsibility and asked to teach an English class, and she starts to feel compassion for the prisoners. When a nefarious plot causes untrue accusations against Johanna, she learns to truly lean on God.
This is an epistolary novel, comprised completely of letters, articles, and other written communication. We watch Johanna’s character develop from a rather vain and secluded student to to a woman of faith, although it takes some hard times to get her there. We meet her friends, family, and community, and we watch her grow as a person. And we learn that there were, in fact, German POW camps in the United States during World War II. I was captivated by this book, which was so well written that the personalities of the characters shone, and their individual nuances were conveyed expertly through their letters. I don’t think many writers can share such an amazing story and well developed characters in epistolary style, so I was surprised that this is Amy Lynn Green’s debut novel. I cannot wait to see what she writes next.
I received a free copy of this book from Bethany House via Netgalley for Historical Novels Review Magazine. My review is voluntary.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Amy Lynn Green is a lifelong lover of books, history, and library cards. She worked in publishing for six years before writing her first historical fiction novel, based on the WWII home front of Minnesota, the state where she lives, works, and survives long winters. Because of her day job in publicity, she has taught classes on marketing at writer’s conferences and regularly encourages established and aspiring authors in their publication journeys. In her novels (and her daily life), she loves exploring the intersection of faith and fiction and searches for answers to present-day questions by looking to the past.
If she had lived in the 1940s, you would have found her writing long letters to friends and family, listening to jazz music, daydreaming about creating an original radio drama, and drinking copious amounts of non-rationed tea. (Actually, these things are fairly accurate for her modern life as well.)
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