☆ The Winter Guest à Download by ☆ Pam Jenoff Eighteen year old twins Helena and Ruth are struggling It is Poland, 1940 With their father dead and their mother institutionalised, they are left to jointly raise their younger siblings while desperately trying to ward off starvation and the harsh winters When Helena comes across a young soldier stranded when his plane crashes, they begin a clandestine relationship and she gradually falls in love with the handsome American I loved this story because it features two equally strong women as its protagonists, something less often seen in historical fiction than I would like Jenoff is an excellent historical storyteller her novels truly capture the hardships faced by mostly ordinary people in wartime In particular, the overwhelming hunger comes across throughout her writing in this book Reading this story made me consider the plight of the Polish community during the war, a country sometimes forgotten in history Initially I was a little disappointed by the books ending because it seemed quite abrupt, but the epilogue solved this issue for me It s a very emotionally charged novel, and one I would not hesitate to recommend for fans of world war two sagas Jenoff has done well to maintain the high standard set by her debut novel.
Pam Jenoff has built a strong reputation writing about World War II and its lingering effects on ordinary people In The Winter Guest, she returns to Poland in 1940, site of her bestseller, The Kommandant s Girl, to tell the story of Helena and Ruth, twin sisters living with their younger siblings in a village near Krakow, as the Nazis seize control The setting is key Isolated from the rest of the country, like many rural Poles, Helena and Ruth struggle for daily survival among food rationing, suspicious neighbors, and the looming threat of winter Their mother lies dying in a Jewish hospital in Krakow the only place that can care for her and stalwart Helena makes the long trek to the city every week to visit her, while introspective Ruth stays behind to tend the children, nursing a recent heartbreak Then Helena stumbles upon an injured American paratrooper in the woods and decides to hide him this act of mercy sets the stage for a passionate affair and betrayal that changes the sisters lives forever Ms Jenoff excels in her vivid portrayal of the deprivation and corrosive fear that afflicted those dwelling under Nazi aggression The sisters are inherently different, convincingly drawn within the paranoia and seething anti Semitism coursing under their village s fa ade Their claustrophobic insularity, however, can dampen the narrative at moments until Helena awakens to possibilities beyond those she has known during her increasingly disquieting trips to Krakow Her discovery of a secret and the tragic events that ensue shatter her confidence as she fights to find meaning in a world descending into darkness, The Winter Guest proves compulsive in its race to a desperate denouement The finale offers a moving testament to the suffering that so many endured during the war.
This review first appeared in the Historical Novels Review, August 2014.
A Stirring Novel Of First Love In A Time Of War And The Unbearable Choices That Could Tear Sisters Apart, From The Celebrated Author Of The Kommandant S Girl Life Is A Constant Struggle For The Eighteen Year Old Nowak Twins As They Raise Their Three Younger Siblings In Rural Poland Under The Shadow Of The Nazi Occupation The Constant Threat Of Arrest Has Made Everyone In Their Village A Spy, And Turned Neighbor Against Neighbor Though Rugged, Independent Helena And Pretty, Gentle Ruth Couldn T Be Different, They Are Staunch Allies In Protecting Their Family From The Threats The War Brings Closer To Their Doorstep With Each Passing Day Then Helena Discovers An American Paratrooper Stranded Outside Their Small Mountain Village, Wounded, But Alive Risking The Safety Of Herself And Her Family, She Hides Sam A Jew But Helena S Concern For The American Grows Into Something Much Deeper Defying The Perils That Render A Future Together All But Impossible, Sam And Helena Make Plans For The Family To Flee But Helena Is Forced To Contend With The Jealousy Her Choices Have Sparked In Ruth, Culminating In A Singular Act Of Betrayal That Endangers Them All And Setting In Motion A Chain Of Events That Will Reverberate Across Continents And Decades Set during the Nazi occupation of Poland during WWII, eighteen year old Nowak twins, Helena and Ruth, are living in a small village in Poland They are struggling to keep their family, which includes their three younger siblings, together We get to know both sisters throughout the story and see how each one faces important decisions and challenges that are put before them, choices which will eventually draw them apart An interesting WWII setting and a bit of romance too, make this a very enjoyable read.
I just can t with this book I wanted to love it, I really did Historical fiction is my thing and I ll try anything centered around World War II I also received a copy of this through the Goodreads FirstReads program so I really wanted to be able to like it and leave a review saying so.
But I can t.
I can say that the story could have been absolutely amazing.
But it wasn t.
To begin with, the first chapter after the introduction sets the story in 1940 And then Sam Rosen shows up Sam is a downed American airman in the Polish countryside The trouble with this is simple America was not involved in World War II in 1940 Pearl Harbor happened on December 7, 1941 and then, only then, did Americans start flying over Europe And Sam s story just snowballs out of control from there He s an airman, Jewish, trying to contact partisans in Czechoslovakia, an enlisted man because he killed his father with a baseball bat, and all important to the war effort No It s just too much.
I can t help wondering why Jenoff didn t make him an RAF airman and British, because they were involved in the war in 1940, instead That would have gone a long way to getting the story off on the right foot for me.
I love history, I love facts There were too many inconsistencies in historical fact for me And it didn t help that Jenoff says in the acknowledgments that she worked at the Pentagon I can t help but think someone at the Pentagon should a know America s role in the war in 1940 and or b do better research.
The heart of the story, though, is Helena Nowak And even her story is too hard to believe She s a daddy s girl who discovers, completely by accident, that she s gotin common with the Jewish Sam than she imagines And I don t mean just falling in love with him She fights with her twin sister, Ruth, a lot Mostly about Sam Fighting between sisters is believable, absolutely But I gave up with a hundred pages left in the story when Ruth, ever the possibly jealous shrew, took advantage of the darkness in Sam s hiding place and pretended to be Helena It was too much I tried reading the epilogue then, to get myself interested in the hundred remaining pages, but that only made it worse.
Were it not for this last head smacking moment, I d give the book two stars.
Two eighteen year old twin sisters Helena and Ruth are living in the mist of war and the Nazi occupation in Poland Their father dead and their mother in the hospital, they struggle to take care of their younger siblings Food is sparse and they are in fear of the constant threat of the Nazi s arresting them or worse Helena and Ruth couldn t bedifferent in personalities Helena has a daring, and courageous spirit ventures out to the local village almost every day, to buy food A village where children grew up and married and the sons worked the same jobs their fathers did.
no one left until the war For the daughters, marriage was the best option Every time she ventures out it becomesanddangerous and she can trust no one.
One day Helena discovers an American Soldier stranded and helps him He is wounded, needs food and in the constant threat of the Nazis discovering him, she continues to help him And evendangerous is that he is a Jew As she helps him, their relationship grows and her resolve to not abandon him even though she is keeping him a secret from her sister makes their situationdangerous as Helena and the soldier make plans to flee, taking her family with them.
Ruth taking the role of care giver to her younger siblings in her mother s place, clothes them, makes sure they are clean and feeds them with what little they have, all the while longing for a husband and a home of her own She was the sister that expected to marry As Ruth discovers Helena s secret of helping the soldier and sees how her sister feels for this soldier, Ruth becomes jealous and makes an unwise choice and betrays Helena that could put all their lives in danger The choices that the two sisters make forever changes their lives and changes the course of their families future Without giving too much detail away, I couldn t help thinking throughout the story if that only Ruth would have realized the importance of her role to her siblings and their survival.
would the outcome have been different then it was.
This story touches on several themes that really made an emotional impact Betrayal and the effects of that, the importance of family, survival, the realities of war, persecution, and love The author gives vivid and realistic details throughout the story and her flow of speech has you hanging on to every word This book is one you won t want to put down and when you are finished reading, you will remember for a long time after.
Riddikulus Despite the assurances and serious name dropping in the bio and acknowledgments that Jenoff received a history master s at Cambridge, worked in the Pentagon, and witnessed the most senior levels of government, The Winter Guest is astonishingly inaccurate, far fetched, fanciful and implausible I m frequently disgusted by the contemporary novels that romanticize or sentimentalize this time period Cloying romances masquerading as gritty historical fiction where the war functions primarily as a dramatic backdrop are the usual culprits Travesties such as The Nightingale are prime examples that perpetuate this attitude which I find, quite frankly, disrespectful see my thoughts here Unsurprisingly, The Winter Guest is no exception it is littlethan your saccharine and hackneyed run of the mill WW2 romance It offers no unique or compelling insight into an already well trodden time period.
For someone with a master s in history, Jenoff appears to have little understanding of the linear events of WW2 The plot is fundamentally flimsy, relying extensively on American involvement in 1940 America didn t touch Europe with a stick until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour at the fag end of 1941 So why, then, would America have any incentive to interfere in distant European affairs and risk lives if the country itself weren t affected Besides from its being intrinsically implausible, the plot is a meandering and predictable slog that never achieves anything I skim read from about twenty five percent, and, as far as I can tell, missed very little It relies on convenient plot twists , including my favourite the classic Measure for Measure bed trick This is why twins get those fantasy jokes This is why people make fun of chick lit.
Perhaps a lukewarm or even an aimless plot can be excused if were to be redeemed by another facet of the novel This, however, was not the case The writing is hardly refined artistry in fact, it s amateur There was something dangerous about him There was something enigmatic about him that made her want to follow him into his strange unknown world.
Yes, that is an actual line Jenoff s prose is dependent on tedious and uninspiring exposition which gives the reader very little credit The characterization is equally as poor the sister dynamic supposedly integral is unconvincing and lacks rigor I d go so far as to say that Helena and Ruth were virtually indistinguishable The relationships and narrative overall are startlingly devoid of emotion, with the notable exception of sisterly angst and cattiness Jenoff neglects to add depth to any one of the topics she touches upon, failing to explore the complexity of rape, assault and sacrifice The novel as a whole lacks gravity nothing was ever at stake Helena is sucked into the resistance, untried, in the most stupidly simplistic manner, and earns reprisal from rules with her sex appeal Does this give her much agency, really What about the important andadmirable qualities real life resistance fighters would have possessed, like cunning, intelligence or reasoning She also frequents the Jewish quarter, ghetto and hospital unquestioned and without much incident Not only is this entirely unrealistic, it belies the tone of the subject matter and means that the novel is certainly never emotionally or psychologically compelling.
I wasn t expecting much and that s exactly what I got not much A family torn apart by war runs the synopsis No, bitchy sisters argue over only available male and agonize over their dysfunctional family, torn apart by daddy issues.
Such a beautiful story of two sisters in World War II Poland Jenoff is a wonderful storyteller, painting vivid images of life during the war I learned quite a bit from The Winter Guest and was touched time and again by the plight of the characters and the atrocities of war Can t wait to read many, manynovels by Pam Jenoff.
Set in 1940, The Winter Guest is a hauntingly evocative tale of two sisters twins who are struggling to care for their three younger siblings in rural Poland at a time of great upheaval and uncertainty Their father is dead, and their mother is ill in a hospital in Krakow, and the two girls, Helena and Ruth, are trying to fulfil their mother s last wish by keeping the family together and keeping them all safe But with severe food shortages, and the ever present threat of the encroaching German army, life is tough and getting tougher While identical in outward appearance, Helena and Ruth are actually as different as chalk and cheese Helena is a bit of a tomboy and was her father s companion of choice when it came to hunting expeditions and performing tasks around the home Ruth has always been regarded as the prettier of the two and is the one imbued with thetraditionally feminine traits so the pair has fallen into the roles of male and female parents, with Ruth responsible for running the home and the bulk of the child rearing, while Helena chops wood, fixes things, and hunts for food.
The girls are close as twins often are but there are lots of resentments bubbling under the surface, too Helena resents Ruth for being their mother s favourite, while Ruth envies the fact that Helena gets to escape their small dwelling every so often It s not that Ruth particularly wants to be out trudging through the forest on the weekly visit to the hospital, or out in the cold chopping firewood, it sthat she is jealous of that little bit of freedom and time to herself that Helena has at those times The delicate balance between the sisters is further upset when, on her way back from visiting her mother, Helena finds a wounded American soldier in the woods, and decides to help him, without telling her sister and knowing that doing so could endanger her family The young man is called Sam Rosen, and is one of a small group of American soldiers who were parachuted into Poland in order to make contact with the Polish partisans which explains the presence of an American soldier in Poland in 1940,than a year before the US entered the war.
Helena takes Sam to a small, dilapidated chapel and tends to his injuries as best she can Over the next few weeks, she visits him as often as she is able, taking what small quantities of food she can spare, and they develop a fondness for each other The development of their relationshipor less takes place off screen, as one chapter ends with Helena s feeling an attraction for Sam, and the next begins a few weeks later, during the course of which they have their first kiss I recognise that this is a work of Historical Fiction rather than an Historical Romance but the romance is actually quite important as the catalyst for certain decisions and actions that occur in the latter stages of the novel, which makes me think that it should have been developed a littlestrongly in order to give greater weight to those events.
Fortunately, however, by the time Helena and Sam have decided they re in love, I d been drawn in by the dynamic between Helena and Ruth, Helena s growing conviction that trying to stay out of things isn t going to save them, and the potential impact of the discovery she makes concerning her mother so I was able to live with the lack of relationship development and immerse myself in the rest of the story.
I found the book a bit slow to start and it took me a while to get into it, but there s no denying Ms Jenoff s skill in setting the scene for her story The undercurrents running between the sisters are quickly established and her descriptions of the deprivations felt throughout rural Poland and the suspicion and fear that are spreading throughout the community are very strongly realised The way that Helena comes to the gradual understanding of the truth of what is happening to the Jewish population is excellently handled, and the pervading atmosphere of paranoia jumps off the page.
The sibling rivalry between Ruth and Helena is very well written, and actually feels quite true to life in that sometimes, their petty jealousies eclipse the bigger picture for both of them When Helena has to tell Ruth about Sam, Ruth immediately thinks that Helena is planning to leave with him, and in her determination not to let that happen, sets in motion a train of events that will have tragic consequences.
While the story is engrossing, there are some aspects of it that are not particularly successful I ve already mentioned that the romance isn t very convincing, and neither is the way that Helena is able to so easily contact the Resistance in Krakow, to ask for help in getting Sam to safety She s been told that the churches are generally used as meeting places, so she goes to one and asks a random man and voil the resistance leader no less, makes contact with her The story is book ended by two short sections set in modern day New York, with the Epilogue very effectively tying up the loose ends left in the final chapter but I couldn t help but feel a little cheated, because the book proper ends on a cliffhanger, and we don t get to see it resolved, or get much information as to what happened in the sixty odd years between the two chapters.
Fortunately, those weaknesses didn t spoil my overall enjoyment of the novel, which is intelligently written and, after the first few chapters, well paced Ms Jenoff doesn t sugar coat the privations suffered by the family or the horror of what is happening to both the Jews and the Poles under the Nazi occupation, but the descriptions are subtle rather than graphic, and are often theeffective for being understated After a slow start, The Winter Guest turned into a gripping read which packed quite an emotional punch, especially in the later part of the story, and I d certainly recommend it to anyone looking for an absorbing and informative piece of World War Two set historical fiction.
Having read and enjoyed for the most part Ms Jenoff s work before see my review of the Ambassador s Daughter , I am surprised to be saying this, but I hated this book Been a while since I disliked a book as much as I dislike this one, especially one I read all the way through That being said, however, the fact I feel so strongly about it and what the characters do within its pages is actually a point in the author s favor At least it evoked strong emotion in me.
I enjoyed Helena and her romance with Sam and this being a Harlequin book, I expected a nice romance, but something happens in the story that makes what starts beautiful turn into ugliness I couldn t stomach it There s a lot of things I can handle, but this was a sick twist I seriously disliked to the point it ruined the story for me It was also utterly ridiculous What woman is overtaken by lust at the sight of a man she doesn t know, who s hairy, stinky, and starved That being said, there s a war on, all right It s Poland and the Germans Nazis have taken over, the Jewish community is disbanded, trains are roaring past full of Jews on their way to the camps, there s very little food to be had, but in the middle of all this trauma and war, the book focuses on a stupid sibling rivalry and loads of resentment between two twin sisters Sadly, that s where all the emotion of the story is resentment between sisters Helena resents that Ruth has been coddled, favored, considered prettier, etc Ruth resents Helena having a romance while she s stuck at home raising three kids due their being orphaned And it goes on and on.
I loathed, with an extreme passion, Ruth What a horrid woman I wanted to gouge her eyes out and sadly, she s half the story.
There are bad things happening and Helena witnesses them, yet there s so little emotion here that even things that should have been frightening just fell flat Example the hospital You hide under the bed while a nurse is raped on top of it and it warrants a mere three or four sentences Then it s never mentioned again I would think the trauma of that would evoke a lotreaction As I said above, there s a lotemotion when it comes to the sisters hating on each other or blabbering about their family history than actual traumatic events.
And Helena just traipses around all this danger unscathed That was also a killer I was like, seriously Nobody stops to check your papers You just waltz around the Jewish hospital, the ghetto, the blackmarket, and nothing happens It s WWII, ladyand you re occupied.
Full review and slight spoiler