Wednesday, March 02, 2022

Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck

First Line: How could I think returning to this place would be a good idea?
Despite her family in Florida begging her to return to the United States, Virginia d’Albert-Lake decides to stay with her French husband because-- if they keep their heads down-- they should be safe. In London, Nineteen-year-old Violette Szabo has seen too much tragedy in her short life, and she's determined to do her bit to defeat the Germans. She enlists in the SOE.
Both women are part of the Resistance against the Nazis, but their work comes to a grinding halt when they are brought together in the Ravensbrück concentration camp. The decisions they make now are going to not only change their own lives but the lives of many others as well.
Based on true stories of the lives of an American socialite and a British secret agent, Sisters of Night and Fog shows the triumph of the human spirit through years of sacrifice, deprivation, and horror. The author, knowing that most of us would not know these stories, scattered a chapter here and there throughout the book about a nameless woman returning to Ravensbrück concentration camp for a ceremony in 1995. I think readers were supposed to be kept on tenterhooks, wondering which one of these two women survived. It didn't take me long to make up my mind since the Robuck did such an excellent job of describing each woman's personality.
Sometimes it can be the smallest detail that brings a book to life for me, and that's what happened to me while reading Sisters of the Night and Fog. A small detail, something I'd never given a second's thought brought home how brilliant the Nazis were at degrading and humiliating human beings who did not meet their ideals. The small detail involves blood, and that's all I'm going to say. 

The first half of the book drags as the author sets the scene, and the pace doesn't begin to pick up until both women actively start participating in fighting the Nazis. After reading what these people had to do to survive and to emerge victorious, I only hope we never have to face such a situation again. We've been so spoiled since World War II that I wonder if we still have such strength and determination within us. 

Sisters of Night and Fog by Erika Robuck
eISBN: 9780593102176
Berkley © 2022
eBook, 480 pages
Historical Fiction, Standalone
Rating: B+
Source: Net Galley


  1. It sounds like a very good book, but I'll pass. I don't read books set in concentration camps, especially where a main character dies.
    I read testimony by women at the Nurenburg trials and they were in Ravensbruck and other camps. I read until I could no longer read it. The brutal acts by guards were so awful.
    And someone wrote a book about the convoy of women prisons imprisoned by the Nazis, many of them Resistance members. I think about 49 survived of 244 or so.
    The NY Times Book Review had an article about a book about women at a camp based on facts. I read the review, and that was enough.
    I give you kudos for braving your way through it.
    I have a book my mother had, which was written by a friend of hers about her imprisonment at Auschwitz. I still have it, but I haven't read it.

  2. I hope, too, that we will never have to live through something like that again, Cathy. And stories like this remind us of how important it is that we stay vigilant. It sounds as though Robuck got the atmosphere, the authenticity, and the character development right for this one, and that's so important. I'm glad you found a lot to like about it.

  3. I find myself feeling the same way you did, Cathy, after reading this type of book - hopeful that we will never have to live through something like that. A book I recently read containing details about the German occupation of Paris also had characters that thought they would be okay if they stayed. I can see how easy it would be to think that, especially when your life has been safe and comfortable until that point.

    1. In researching our family tree, one thing my mother discovered is that, every 100-150 years or so, my family gets itchy feet and moves at least a thousand miles away from everyone else. Guess which generation I fell into? Moving would not be a problem for me. What the problem would be is not being able to get everyone else I cared for to move with me.

  4. There are so many WWII books out there it's impossible to read them all, but this sounds like one of the better ones. :)

  5. I've read about Violette Szabo before in several books, but especially Leo Mark's Between Silk and Cyanide: A Codemaker's War 1941-1945 about the SOE. He had a special fondness for some of his agents, including Szabo.
    He wrote original poems on silk for his agents. This was Szabo's. It was written when his fiancée died in a plane crash and he gave it to Szabo on her second mission. Leo Marks was the son of Benjamin Marks of Charing Cross Road antiquarian books.

    1. Ooh! Thanks for the additional info, Jen!


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