Wednesday, 2 December 2020

On the Wings of Hope by Ella Zeiss

On the Wings of Hope by Ella Zeiss
First published in German as Von Hoffnung getragen by Books On Demand in May 2018. English language translation by Helen MacCormac published by Lake Union Publishing on the 17th November 2020.

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

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As World War II draws to a close, can two young people find love, hope—and freedom?

February 1942: Terrifying reports of the Wehrmacht’s advance across the Soviet Union spread like wildfire, striking new fear into the already oppressed German families living there.

Harri Pfeiffer, now sixteen, is summoned to the forced labour camp in Chelyabinsk. With men around him dying by the hundreds, every day is a fight for survival in a world plagued with despair.

Three years later, with the war finally over, Yvo Scholz arrives in Chelyabinsk, desperate for news of her brother, who was also last seen being dispatched to the labour camp. Still uncertain of the fate of her father, it takes all Yvo’s unshakeable courage to build a new life for herself while she waits for hope to return.

When their paths intersect, Harri and Yvo find a connection they never thought possible. But faced with hostility and discrimination, do they dare to dream they will one day be free—together?

On The Wings Of Hope contines the stories of the Soviet-German families, the Scholzes and the Pfeiffers, who I first met in reading In The Shadow Of The Storm about a year ago. This book is the sequel and it starts at the same point at which the first one abruptly ended. If you are able, I would suggest buying both books to read consecutively because they really do work better as a single long story. That said, I was much more contented reading On The Wings Of Hope. This was partly because I already had knowledge and understanding of the main characters, but also because this book felt more balanced. Our two protagonists, Harri and Yvo share the storytelling throughout the book as they are each flung about Russia with no say in their destinies, even though we as omniscient readers can be pretty confident they will at least end up in the same town eventually.

Zeiss evokes the harsh environments that mistrusted Soviet-German communities were forced to endure during World War Two. Collectively their labour was essential to the Russian war effort, but their individual lives had absolutely no value so there are several distressing scenes in this novel. Zeiss based the story around her grandparents' experiences and that authenticity does shine through, even when some of the imagined dialogue and conversations don't feel as grounded in truth. I'm glad I did decide to download On The Wings Of Hope because I now have a much more positive impression of Zeiss' writing than I did after just the first book. Her exploration of a lesser-known aspect of Second World War history makes this an interesting addition to that genre's literature, especially with similar rises in nationalism and intolerance today reflecting the Scholzes and Pfeiffers situation back then.

Search Literary Flits for more:
Books by Ella Zeiss / Historical fiction / Books from Kazakhstan

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