Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #HistoricalFiction Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook by @CeliaRees

Miss Graham's Cold War CookbookMiss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook by Celia Rees

4.5 stars

Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is set mainly in Germany in the first few months after the end of World War Two, a period when there was a scramble for power out of the wreckage of war.  Into this scenario walks Edith Graham, a frustrated teacher who wants to do more with her life.

Offered an opportunity by a distant relative, Edith takes a job in Germany helping to start schools for children displaced by war, but she has also signed the official secrets act and has been asked to watch and listen for information which might lead to the arrest of war criminals.

As the story unfolds, it becomes clear that not everyone hunting Nazi party members wants to bring them to justice. Britain, America and Russia are all interested in the top scientists and medical doctors and have their own plans for these people – while Edith’s friend Dori is searching for missing British agents who disappeared under suspicious circumstances close to the end of the war.

Before Edith went to Germany she was asked by Dori to send her coded information about what was going on, because the she felt hampered in her search for a mole in the SOE (Special Operations Executive). Edith devised a message coding system using recipes, to send Dori her news.

I really enjoyed this story, as it took me to an era connected to the World War which was also the start of the Cold War and one I know very little about; I was quite shocked by some of the things that I read, especially about the war criminals and other Nazi party members.

The women in this book were the highlights for me; they shone through clearly and there were several great characters, all easily distinguishable. The male characters were harder to picture and I did get a little muddled between some of them and with which operation they belonged to, although this may have been deliberate in a double-crossing espionage style. I also liked the coded recipe idea and looked forward to guessing the messages between the lines of ingredients.

To sum this story up; a different type of World War Two story with an espionage theme which gave me much to think about especially with the advancements in science and medicine which took place in Germany during the war and where that information went after the war.

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World War II has just ended, and Britain has established the Control Commission for Germany, which oversees their zone of occupation. The Control Commission hires British civilians to work in Germany, rebuild the shattered nation and prosecute war crimes. Somewhat aimless, bored with her job as a provincial schoolteacher, and unwilling to live with her stuffy genteel parents any longer, twentysomething Edith Graham applies for a job with the Commission—but is instead recruited by the OSS. To them, Edith is perfect spy material…single, ordinary-looking, with a college degree in German. And there’s another thing—the OSS knows that Edith’s brother went to Oxford with one of their most hunted war criminals, Count Kurt von Stabenow, who Edith remembers all too well from before the war.

Intrigued by the challenge, Edith heads to Germany armed with a convincing cover story: she’s an unassuming schoolteacher sent to help resurrect German primary schools. To send information back to her OSS handlers in London, Edith has crafted the perfect alter ego, cookbook author Stella Snelling, who writes a popular magazine cookery column that embeds crucial intelligence within the recipes she collects. But occupied Germany is awash with other spies, collaborators, and opportunists, and as she’s pulled into their world, Edith soon discovers that no one is what they seem to be. The closer she gets to uncovering von Stabenow’s whereabouts—and the network of German civilians who still support him—the greater the danger. 

With a unique, compelling premise, Miss Graham’s Cold War Cookbook is a beautifully crafted and gripping novel about daring, betrayal, and female friendship.

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Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #HistoricalDrama The Moment by Douglas Kennedy #TuesdayBookBlog

The MomentThe Moment by Douglas Kennedy

4 stars

The Moment is an historical drama. American travel writer Thomas Nesbitt admits that he runs away from his fears; however, when a box is delivered from Germany, past memories come rolling back.

1984: Thomas is in Berlin writing about what it is like in the West, how the Wall dominates the city and what it is like to cross through Checkpoint Charlie to East Germany. He recalls his freelance work for a local radio service which broadcasts programmes knowing that they can be picked up in East Germany.

It’s at the radio station that Thomas meets Petra, a woman accused of speaking out against the East German state. She was imprisoned then sent to West Germany in a prisoner exchange agreement. They fall in love and plan to get married even moving to America, but Petra’s past catches up with them and while the Americans deal with Petra, Thomas is sent back home.

It has taken me a while to finish this book; like its title I had my ‘moments’ with it. Some I enjoyed, finding myself engrossed for a few hours, while at other times, the slow pace of the story dragged. It’s definitely memorable, the attention to detail created wonderful pictures in my head, particularly the contrasts between West and East Germany at the time. Then later after the Wall came down, we read some of Petra’s reflections; later still, we hear from a next generation German, who finds it hard to imagine a wall and a diverse split over a nation now joined as one.

This story made me think about its messages as well as being a good piece of cold war fiction. I’m glad I read it and I particularly enjoyed the author’s notes in the back explaining his story process.

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Thomas Nesbitt is a divorced American writer in the midst of a rueful middle age. Living a very private life in Maine – in touch only with his daughter and still trying to reconcile himself to the end of a long marriage that he knew was flawed from the outset – he finds his solitude disrupted by the arrival, one wintry morning, of a box postmarked Berlin. The return address on the box – Dussmann – unsettles him completely. For it is the name of the woman with whom he had an intense love affair twenty-six years ago in Berlin – at a time when the city was cleaved in two, and personal and political allegiances were haunted by the deep shadows of the Cold War.

Refusing initially to confront what he might find in that box, Thomas nevertheless finds himself forced to grapple with a past he has never discussed with any living person – and in the process relive those months in Berlin, when he discovered, for the first and only time in his life, the full, extraordinary force of true love. But Petra Dussmann – the woman to whom he lost his heart – was not just a refugee from a police state, but also someone who lived with an ongoing sorrow beyond dreams… and one which gradually rewrote both their destinies.

In this, his tenth novel, Douglas Kennedy has written that rare thing: a love story as morally complex as it is tragic and deeply reflective. Brilliantly gripping, it is an atmospherically dense, ethically tangled tale of romantic certainty and conflicting loyalties, all set amidst a stunningly rendered portrait of Berlin in the final dark years before The Wall came down.

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