The Center of Gravity
By Patricia Brandon
A young woman is tricked into service as a food tester for Adolf Hitler in his secret Wolf's Lair, where she will endure yet another atrocity. A French professor, whose best friend is a Jew fighting in the Alsatian Resistance, is forced to assist in the Nazi reconstruction of the priceless Amber Room in the Konigsberg Castle. All hide dangerous secrets. When their worlds collide, high risk plans for escape are made, with the unlikely help of the anti-Nazi brother of Hermann Goering. But will the darkest of secrets remain hidden, or will lives be forever changed when the truth is finally revealed?
"Evil often initially masquerades as gray, not black and white..."
Germany would be a great nation now that Adolf Hitler was at the helm. Look how successful the Olympische Sommerspiele of '36 had been, and that was only the start.
The signs had been there, of course. Sonne Becker's father had seen them, but even he did not know how far the Nazis were willing to go to achieve their aims.
Rainer von Bauchelle and Josef Taffel had been friends for as long as they could remember. Nothing could change that. Nothing. Not even the Nazis as they marched into Alsace, France and spread their propaganda of hatred and division. But while Josef, a Jew, joins the Alsatian Resistance, Rainer must play a different type of game. He is forced to befriend the enemy, work with them. He does not want to. But, he has no choice.
Hitler had blue eyes. Sonne Becker had always thought them black, like his soul. But no. They were blue. She would never forget the colour of his eyes, or what that chance meeting would mean for her. Sonne's life was no longer her own, and nor it seemed, was her body.
From the early days of Hitler's chancellorship to the devastating consequences of the Second World War and beyond, The Center of Gravity by Patricia Brandon is the gripping yet harrowing account of two lives torn unmercifully apart by the Nazi Regime.
Brandon has penned a deeply moving story of betrayal, deceit, sacrifice, and loss. This emotionally charged story paints a graphic portrait of what life was like for those who found themselves as disposable pawns in a game they never asked to play in the first place. Sonne experiences the horrors of Hitler's Wolf's Lair, whereas Rainer has to pretend to be submissive when he really wants to shout out his hatred. But along the way, both Sonne and Rainer discover that even in the darkest of moments, there is a reason to hope. For help can come from the strangest and most unlikeliest of places — an SS Officer, and the brother of Hermann Göring.
Sonne's struggle for survival haunts me. Brandon has taken a woman with so much promise, with youth on her side, and placed her in a situation where she cannot save herself nor can she fight. Her fears and her struggle for survival was incredibly moving. But her suffering does not end when the war does, nor does it end after the Nuremberg Trials. What happened to her affects her for the rest of her life. I found myself in tears on more than one occasion.
Rainer's war is a little different from Sonne's. He is recruited by the Nazis to recreate the Amber Room in Konigsberg Castle. His acts of defiance are small — unbeknown to anyone he wears the Star of David, a gift from Josef. But he soon comes to realise that not everyone who raises their hand and greets with a "Heil Hitler" is as loyal to the Party as they seem to be. I thought Rainer's character was masterfully portrayed.
There are several supporting characters in this book, but I thought the portrayal of Albert Göring was sublime. Albert is one of those unsung heroes of World War II. Unlike his brother, Albert was not seduced by the Party — in fact, he despised it. Albert saw through the parades and the banners and the slogans. He saw the Nazi Party for what they were. Albert was vehemently opposed to Nazism, and he did everything he could to help Jews and others who were persecuted escape. Albert has been shoved into obscurity by the depravity of his brother's crimes, so it was wonderful to read a book that celebrated his achievements. Kudos, Ms Brandon.
The historical detailing has to be commended. I have tutored Modern European History for a number of years, and the rise of the National Socialist German Workers' Party has always been somewhat of a speciality. Brandon has paid very close attention to the historical sources and eye witness accounts. I thought her portrayal of Wolf's Lair and the plight of Hitler's food-tasters was fabulous. The story of these 15 women who were forced to test Hitler's food before it was considered safe for him to consume is not something that is often discussed. But these women faced death every day, and the emotional damage must have been horrendous. Brandon has shown this in all its horrific detail.
I thought this was an absolutely fabulous book, and there is a surprising twist at the end, which I didn't see coming. Fans of tautly gripping World War II fiction will undoubtedly enjoy The Center of Gravity.
I Highly Recommend.
Review by Mary Anne Yarde.
The Coffee Pot Book Club.
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The Center of Gravity
Patricia Brandon is a winner of a Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award and the author of In The Valley Of Achor, her poignant, gritty, and inspirational story of her first year after facing sudden paralysis of her legs. She no longer plays tennis (yet!), but is writing, working on guitar and mountain dulcimer skills, and traveling with friends when she can. She hasn’t given up in the fight to regain her ability to walk!