Thursday, 19 September 2019

The Women at Hitler’s Table by Rosella Postorino


The Women at Hitler’s Table by Rosella Postorino
First published in Italian as Le Assaggiatrici by Feltrinelli in Italy in 2018. English language translation by Leah Janeczko published by HarperCollins on the 1st August 2019.

One of my 2019 New Release Challenge reads
I've linked up this post to September 2019 Foodies Read at Based On A True Story

How I got this book:
Received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Inspired by the powerful true story of Margot Wölk, this is a heartbreaking and gripping historical novel for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz and The Beekeeper of Aleppo

East Prussia, 1943. Hitler hides away in the Wolfsshanze – his hidden headquarters. The tide is turning in the war and his enemies circle ever closer.
Ten women are chosen.
Ten women to taste his food and protect him from poison.

Twenty-six-year-old Rosa has lost everything to this war. Her parents are dead. Her husband is fighting on the front line. Alone and scared, she faces the SS with nothing but the knowledge every bite might be her last.

Caught on the wrong side of history, how far is Rosa willing to go to survive?


I mistakenly thought, at first, that The Women At Hitler's Table was a nonfiction work. In reality it is well researched historical fiction based around the wartime experiences of Margot Wolk who was selected to be one of Hitler's food tasters for several years. The real life Margot kept this a secret for decades after the war had ended, only eventually breaking her silence at the age of ninety-six. Rosella Postorino has crafted this around Margot's story. I don't actually know how much of what I read was factual and how much imagined, but I appreciated that the story felt authentic throughout and I felt that Postorino had done a lot of research on life at Wolfsschanze. The Women At Hitler's Table allows us to learn about a formerly hidden aspect of World War Two. When recounting wartime history, women are often overlooked in favour of analysing battle strategies or telling soldiers' stories. Recently however novels such as How We Disappeared and histories such as Les Parisiennes have allowed me to view the war through a much wider lens.

I particularly liked how Postorino depicted the fraught relationships between Rosa and her husband's family, and between the ten women food tasters. Their views of the role are very different with some actively relishing the prospect of being so vital to Hitler's survival and others doing the work because their terror of the SS is greater than that of eating poisoned food. Another consideration was, of course, that by the time Hitler had moved to Wolfsschanze, many of the local villagers were practically starving. At least this job meant being fed so there would be one's rations could be shared amongst one's family.

I enjoyed reading this novel very much. In common with Good People, it poses uncomfortable questions to the reader about how we might act under similar circumstances so would make an interesting source for book club discussions. It is also a tense and exciting read with believable characters struggling to survive under increasingly dangerous circumstances. I would recommend The Women At Hitler's Table to readers of character-driven wartime fiction.


Etsy Find!
by Magasin De Curios in
Torigni-sur-Vire, France

Click pic to visit Etsy Shop


Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Rosella Postorino / Historical fiction / Books from Italy

12 comments:

  1. I just borrowed this book from my library! Can't wait to read it.

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    1. I hope you enjoy the story too! Looking forward to seeing what you think

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  2. I can't imagine being put in that position and having to live through that.

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    1. It's such a strange predicament and interesting to see how the different women respond to their task

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  3. When I saw the title I thought it would be non-fiction too! I am disappointed to see it is fiction, but does the book have a bibliography?

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    1. No bibliography other than the mention of a newspaper interview with Margot Wolk shortly before she died. I'm not sure yet if any nonfiction has been written about this. It would be interesting to understand how much of Postorino's novel is imagined

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  4. I love historical fiction and this book sounds right up my alley.

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    1. This is one I am going to be recommending around :-)

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  5. I hadn't heard of this book before but I can't imagine what it would be like to be one of those women. Especially as there were so many people who didn't want Hitler alive at the time... It sounds like this was a very well written and researched book as well.

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    1. Their conundrum really messed with my head when I thought about it. The possibility of really good food when little was available elsewhere, but the possibility that the next meal would be poisoned, and the SS collecting the women for work each day. So not much choice really

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  6. I never really thought before about who would be doing the testing of Hitler's food. It's a bit different for sure.

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    1. It wasn't something that had occurred to me either!

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