Monday 20 May 2019

#BookReview — No Woman's Land: A Holocaust Novel By Ellie Midwood #HistoricalFiction #WW2

No Woman's Land
A Holocaust Novel
By Ellie Midwood

This novel is based on the inspiring and moving love story of Ilse Stein, a German Jew, and Willy Schultz, a Luftwaffe Captain in the Minsk ghetto, who risked his life to save the one he loved the most. 

When the last of the Jews’ rights are stripped in 1941, Ilse’s family is deported to a Minsk ghetto. Confined to a Sonderghetto and unable to speak the locals’ language, Ilse struggles to support the surviving members of her family. Befriended by a local underground member Rivka, Ilse partakes in small acts of resistance and sabotage to help her fellow Jews escape to the partisans.

A few months later, after losing almost his entire brigade of workers to one of the bloodiest massacres conducted by the SS, a local administrative officer Willy Schultz summons the survivors to form a new brigade. Ilse’s good looks immediately catch his eye, and he makes her a leader of the new unit and later, an office worker. Soon, an unlikely romance blossoms amid death and gore, moving a Nazi officer to go to great risks to protect not only Ilse but as many others as possible and allowing a Jewish girl to open her heart to the former enemy. Knowing that the ghetto would soon be liquidated, Willy Schultz swears to save Ilse, even if the cost would be his own life. 

“We live together, or we die together,” - an ultimate oath of love in the most harrowing setting. 

Dark, haunting, but full of hope, “No Woman’s Land” is a testament to the love that is stronger than fear and death itself.

"Why is she crying? Surely she should know by now that the Nazis kill people."

The Jews had it easy. They had been relocated to the east to work on the farmland. One should envy them their situation. There was food aplenty — fresh air. Yes, the Jews had it easy.

No one mentioned what it was like when the snow fell from the clouds in large fluffy flakes, half burying the frozen corpses that lined the road. Nor, did they speak of the frightened screams of the Jewish babies and children as they were thrown into a deep pit, while General-Kommissar Kube threw candy down at them as if that would somehow make up for the SS and their spades of death which would bury them alive. No. The people of Germany had no idea. They did not know that the SS had murdered God.

It was her mother's smile that would haunt Ilse Stein. A smile in a tear-stained face. Such a tender smile from one whose heart was broken. Ilse knew what her mother could not say. She was trying to tell her to survive, no matter what. But how does one survive when you are forced to live in constant fear of death?

It was a damnable business — the SS and their guns and their massacres. Did they not know they were only making things worse for themselves? The forest was crawling with partisans. It was only a matter of time before the locals turned on them as well. Leutnant Willy Schultz, a former Luftwaffe pilot and now Officer of the Minsk Air Supply Unit, was appalled by what he was witnessing. Not that he could say anything. Not out loud anyway. However, there was something he could do. It might not be much, but perhaps he could make a difference to a few of the women that lived in Minsk Ghetto.

Ilse did not know what to make of Leutnant Schultz. He was different from the others. He treated her and the women under his authority with compassion as if they were worthy of breathing the same air as he did. Ilse fancied that in a different time, she could have fallen in love with a man like Schultz. And maybe, just maybe, in a world where there is peace and musicians are once again thought of as useful people, Schultz could have fallen in love with her...

No Woman's Land: A Holocaust Novel by Ellie Midwood is the story of one woman's fight to stay alive during one of the most horrifying periods in human history.

It is hard to put into words how much No Woman's Land affected me. Like Thomas Keneally's Schindler's Ark, this novel does not gloss over the oppression faced by the Jewish people, nor the cruelty. Considered vermin, they were treated like vermin. This is a painfully honest book and one that it is utterly compelling. So compelling in fact that I could not put it down, while at the same time, I found myself fearing what was to come on the next page.

Told in the first person, from Ilse's perspective, meant that I felt her pain as if it were mine. Her bravery and her determination to stay alive and to help those closest to her stay alive is a testament in itself to this woman's courage. The things that Ilse has to face, the loss she suffers, left me in tears on more than one occasion. And unlike a fictional telling of the Holocaust, No Woman's Land is based on real people, and the story is true, which makes this book a very personal and emotional account of this horrific time.

Although the setting of this book is harrowing, there is also a tender forbidden romance within its pages. Leutnant Schultz and Ilse's pledge, "We live together, or we die together," is so incredibly poignant because if it were found out that they were in love, then death awaited them both. He was a Nazi and she a Jewess. And yet their love would not be denied. Even amongst the fear and death, Midwood gives us this incredible sense of the deepest of loves. Her ability to weave a love story against such a bleak background, and to make it romantic, even when there was no opportunity for romance demonstrates perfectly why Midwood's books are always met with such rapturous applause and eager anticipation. Midwood's attention to not only the historical setting but the portrayal of the historical characters has to be commended. Midwood has this ability to resurrect people who have been dead for years and breathe life back into them with her writing.

I cannot write this review without mentioning the lengths Leutnant Schultz was prepared to go to in order to save Ilse's life. His courage to go against his Party and his government, when he was so used to obeying orders, reminds us that there are always good people in the world, even when it seems that only evil resides.  

Beautifully written and wholly unforgettable. No Woman's Land deserves the broadest possible readership to make sure we do not forget the horrors of the Holocaust and those who survived it.

I Highly Recommend.

Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.

Pick up your copy of
No Woman's Land

Ellie Midwood

Ellie Midwood is an award-winning, best-selling historical fiction writer. She's a health-obsessed yoga enthusiast, a neat freak, an adventurer, Nazi Germany history expert, polyglot, philosopher, a proud Jew, and a doggie mama.

Ellie lives in New York with her fiancé and their Chihuahua named Shark Bait.


Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical fiction category (2016) - "The Girl from Berlin: Standartenführer's Wife"

Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical fiction category (2016) - "The Austrian"(honorable mention)

New Apple - 2016 Award for Excellence in Independent Publishing - "The Austrian"(official selection)

Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical fiction category (2017) - "Emilia"

Readers' Favorite - winner in the Historical fiction category (2018) - "A Motherland's Daughter, A Fatherland's Son"

Connect with Ellie: 

Website • Amazon • Goodreads  • BookBub • Facebook.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations on your review, Ms. Midwood. Will No Woman's Land be coming out in paperback? I have a mind to read this one.


See you on your next coffee break!
Take Care,
Mary Anne xxx