Every day he stood exactly where he was directed. He listened for his number, shouted his answer in the freezing cold. He was ragged and he was starving, but he was alive. He was one of the fortunate ones whom fate had left standing. And he needed to stay that way. For Hannah.
Berlin, 1941. Felix Thalberg, a printer’s apprentice, has the weight of the world on his shoulders. His beloved city is changing under Nazi rule and at home things are no better – Felix’s father hasn’t left the house since he was forced to wear a yellow star, and his mother grows thinner every day.
Then one night, Felix meets a mysterious young woman in a crowded dance hall, and his life is changed forever. Hannah is like a rush of fresh air into his gloomy, stagnant life and Felix finds himself instantly, powerfully infatuated with her. But when he tries to find her again, she’s vanished without a trace.
Was Hannah taken away by the Gestapo and held prisoner… or worse? When Felix himself is imprisoned in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, his thoughts are only for her safety. And when a life-threatening injury lands him in the ward of Dr Max Eichel – a Nazi medical officer with a sadistic reputation – his love for his lost Hannah sees him through the pain.
Until one day Dr Eichel brings his pretty young wife to tour the camp and Felix’s world is thrown off-kilter. Framed in the hospital window he sees – impossibly – the same girl he met that fateful night… her wrist in the vice-like grip of the deathly calm SS Officer. And it’s clear Hannah recognises him at once – there is no mistaking her expression, she has been dreaming of him too…
A gripping and beautiful wartime love story about two people facing impossible odds – heart-breaking, moving and unforgettable. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, We Were the Lucky Ones and The Alice Network.
The Fortunate Ones by Catherine Hokin is a World War II story set in Berlin in 1941. It is an extraordinary story that encompasses bravery, heartache, love and the power to keep going even when faced with adversity.
Felix Thalberg is a Mischling. He is neither fully German nor fully Jewish. While still being able to hold a job as a printer’s apprentice, Felix is not really sure where he fits in under the Nazi regime. His father has been stripped of his lecturing position and forced to wear a yellow star and is fearful of leaving their home. Felix’s mother, an aryan, refuses to leave her husband and finds herself shunned in the community. While at a dance, Felix meets Hannah and falls in love, but soon after finds himself arrested by the regime and sent to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp. While in the camp, Felix sees a glimpse of Hannah through a window pane, with an SS officer, Max Eichel, a sadistic medical officer and loyal to the regime, standing right behind her. While fearful of Hannah’s fate, she also gives him hope in a world that has changed.
Catherine Hokin really emmerses you into life in a concentration camp and all of the atrocities done to other people the regime labeled as undesirables. She shows how Jews were dehumanized and treated like nothing more than cattle. People were stripped of their dignity, murdered, and tested on like lab rats. Names no longer mattered. You were nothing more than a number, you were no one. There was no humanity in a concentration camp. Just reading the text was so disheartening and gave me the chills. Not only is this a story of what it was like in a camp, but it also takes it a step further until after the war had ended. I find it to be refreshing to see what happens after the war, which not many authors tend to write about.
What is most apparent is all of the research Hokin delved into while creating this story. Names and places have historic merit and I found it quite refreshing to read. From Berlin to Argentina, Hokin takes us on a journey of the SS from concentration camps in Berlin in 1941 all the way up till the end of the war when many SS Nazi’s escaped to Bariloche, Argentina’s Lake District.
Felix is such a strong well written character. I could feel his pain and suffering, but I could also feel his strength even when he felt like giving up. The only thought holding him together was his love for Hannah. I know many might not understand the symbolism of the romance in this story, or may feel it was short shafted among the bigger picture, but I feel it was a necessary plot point that kept Felix going and one that gave him the strength he needed to survive through the atrocities thrown his way.
Hannah is a well written character as well and I could see how she felt trapped in a marriage she did not want to be in while she carried around a love for a boy she briefly met. I found her to be very naive in the beginning, but yet I can understand why she wore rose colored glasses. In the beginning of 1941, I don’t think she could have truly handled all that was going on at the time. Hannah does grow in character and you can see how she changes for the better as time goes on.
I would really like to mention the ending of this story, while I didn’t get the ending I wanted, I think it still ended perfectly and kept with the entire theme of the story. I think one really needs to encompass all that is going on to truly understand why the ending is the way it is.
The Fortunate ones is a beautifully moving, gut-wrenching World War II story that will pull on your heartstrings. I highly recommend this book if you are a historical fiction fan. A definite five star read for me and I am really looking forward to more from Catherine Hokin.
I am from the North of England but now live very happily in Glasgow with my American husband. Both my children have left home (one to London and one to Berlin) which may explain why I am finally writing. If I’m not at my desk you’ll most probably find me in the cinema, or just follow the sound of very loud music.
I’d love to hear from you and there are lots of ways you can find me, so jump in via my website https://www.catherinehokin.