This novel is written in the first person. It goes back and forth between 1944, 1946 and the present.
It was Normandy in 1944 and Adam’s twenty-fourth birthday. Instead of celebrating his graduation from Oxford completing his degree in law, he was a Lieutenant in charge of men landing on the beach at Normandy. He has many adventures throughout the war and is badly wounded. He becomes a military attorney after the war in Germany processing war criminals. He is tentative and nervous around his interviewees. He doesn’t seem to be able to assert any authority over them at all. They take verbal advantage of him countless times. Defend these people? You must be kidding!
The book then goes to 1946 and his friendship with a doctor. Ernst Mann. The doctor tells Adam that he met the young Adolph Hitler when he was but a boy. He strongly suspects him of a heinous crime, but never reported him. He feels very bad for not having done so when it would have saved millions of lives. Adam tells him that he cannot blame himself. Who knows what turns life will bring as we walk through it? Dr. Mann reveals more about Hitler’s youth of a violent and abusive family.
The city has been heavily bombed and the citizens don’t like the British soldiers, and the Americans even less. Adam befriends some women in a brothel, especially Rosa. She is an aristocratic sole survivor of her family who has turned to the “oldest profession” to merely survive. He learns much more about the firebombing of the city from the Madame.
Adam now in his eighties recalls his wartime experiences while retired in the Costwolds district of England. He is plagued by real pain and emotional pain and remembrances of his time in Germany. He is also comforted by his relationship with Rosa.
This book is well written and plotted, but it does tend to wander in places. I enjoyed the portrayal of Adam and his trials during the war. The descriptions of the destroyed city were well written and devastating. It is a good book and I enjoyed it. I will look forward to the next Richard Vaughan-Davies novel to be published.
I want to thank NetGalley and Troubador Publishing Ltdr/Matador for forwarding this interesting book to me to read and enjoy.
by Joyce Fox
An interesting read that had me up reading long into the night. It shows the bleakness of postwar Germany and how people had to live with decisions that had been made during the war. I particularly engaged with the doctor's story pre WW1 and really empathized with him over the guilt that he felt.
by Emily Sheppard
In The Shadow of Hitler is a book that deals with life during and after the world war. It is the story of Adam and his life in Germany. Adam was involved in the action at Normandy and was later a military attorney after the war in Germany. Here he finds unlikely friends.
One of his friends, an ageing doctor who knew Hitler from his formative years, reveals a secret that gives an insight into his character. The guilt that the man could have stopped the boy from becoming the monster eats him alive, inside out. To live with such guilt for a lifetime is punishment indeed. Then there is Rosa, a lady born to a well-to-do family. But when all else is destroyed she turns to the oldest profession. Through her, Adam is introduced to a brothel and other prostitutes and their gang. People who have had everything in their lives destroyed and are working hard at staying alive. Adam and Rosa were quite a pair, and romance in the aftermath of such devastation was portrayed with flair. There were no roses or poems, just life and the urge to survive.
I am not sure if this is a book that most readers would enjoy, for this not the average kind of book. It took me a long while to finish this book. But, I really enjoyed this book. The to and fro in the timeline may be a little too much to handle at times. I had to take a break every now and then to keep up with the book. It was overwhelming at times with its depiction of life in those times. The author has made the book rather evocative but in a very subtle manner. As for pace, there were a few instances when I felt that the book was a bit too slow, but nonetheless, I hardly skipped pages. There are plenty of instances when the author gets one thing right - what humans are capable of doing should they are able to let the evil inside them out.
Thanks to NetGalley for the review copy.
by Jayasree B
Richard Vaughan Davies
inherited a small clothing shop in North Wales from his father in 1964 and built it into a million pound business using extensive Press advertising. He read English and Italian at University and was deputy editor of MENSWEAR magazine for a short time. Richard and Barbara retired to the Cotswolds in 2010. He has three amazing children.