Friday, September 18, 2015

Review: The Beast's Garden by Kate Forsyth

Title:  The Beast's Garden

Author: Kate Forsyth
Publisher: 3 August 2015 by Random House Australia
Pages: 440 pages
How I Read It: ARC ebook
Genre: historical fiction, romance, World War II
My Rating: 5 cups

'Ava fell in love the night the Nazis first showed their true nature to the world .' 
It's August 1939 in Germany, and Ava's world is in turmoil. To save her father, she must marry a young Nazi officer, Leo von Löwenstein, who works for Hitler's spy chief in Berlin. However, she hates and fears the brutal Nazi regime, and finds herself compelled to stand against it.

Ava joins an underground resistance movement that seeks to help victims survive the horrors of the German war machine. But she must live a double life, hiding her true feelings from her husband, even as she falls in love with him. 

Gradually she comes to realise that Leo is part of a dangerous conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. As Berlin is bombed into ruins, the Gestapo ruthlessly hunt down all resistance and Ava finds herself living hand-to-mouth in the rubble of the shell-shocked city. Both her life and Leo's hang in the balance. 

Filled with danger, intrigue and romance, The Beast's Garden, a retelling of the Grimm brothers' 'Beauty and The Beast', is a beautiful, compelling love story set in a time when the world seemed on the brink of collapse.

My Thoughts

Simply stated, the 'Beast's Garden' is an EXTRAordinary book. Kate Forsyth does an exceptional job in blending the fiction and non fiction of this tumultuous period in time. This World War II thriller encapsulates so much that the reader is enveloped within the pages and it's difficult to come back to reality. The multifaceted components are seamlessly bought together - romance, action, fairytale connotations - leaving you in awe of the penmanship of Forsyth.
The setting is Berlin 1938-45, covering the rise of the Nazi’s and the effect of the regime on the Jewish-German Berliner’s but refreshingly, also on those who struggled to watch their country torn apart by this ruthless ideology. The historical detail is rich and true without being overwhelming. Yet it is the way Forsyth weaves the actions of the real players of the time with her fictional ones that provides such insightful perspectives. It is so engaging providing such personal and unique perspectives on some of the key moments and prominent people during this horrific time in history. 
"Besides, it's more than that. To stand by and do nothing is to help them. So you see .... I cannot stand by ... no matter the consequences. Because the alternative is too awful.".
Each component, alongside a strong cast of characters, provides such depth and therefore understanding and empathy. Forsyth takes you inside a concentration camp, to life in everyday Berlin as the war progresses, to the elites of Nazi German society and their lavish lifestyle and so much more. This all combines to present the reader with an intensely emotional journey written by a superior author. At it's heart, it explores how such horrific events can impact and transform people.  How your morals and very essence are put to the test when confronted with such an evil regime. 
Cleverly, Forsyth brings that personal element to the story as you journey along with Ava and her growing relationship with Leo: 
"You see me in my uniform and think that is all that I am. You don't look to see what kind of man I am within."
You cannot help but invest in these two special characters who are faced with so much deception and horror:
"He pressed his cheek into her hair. 'Oh God, Ava ... I wish we lived in some other place, at some other time ... but we don't. We can only live the life we've been given as best we can."
The fairytale elements are subtle yet insightful. They compliment as they highlight the unique connections, enhancing the understanding of the wisdom and folly of events:
"Otto had always said more wisdom was to be found in that collection of tales (Grimms' Fairy Tales) than in any textbook."
"By listening to the language of dreams and old tales ... all humans could learn to understand themselves, and the world, better."
In her 'Afterword', Forsyth wrote that:
"The Beast's Garden was the most difficult book I have ever written. The material was ... emotionally harrowing and the research exhausting ... but it was more than that. I think on reflection, that I was afraid of failing to do the story justice. I was afraid to fail all those people who suffered so terribly during the seven years of my story."
She need have feared not. The Beast's Garden is a 'must read' for 2015. If you are a historical fiction fan and love an enthralling story, then this is for you. You will not regret it.

This review is based on a complimentary copy from the publisher and provided through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The quoted material may have changed in the final release.

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