The Traitor – V.S. Alexander
Publication Date: March 12, 2020
Drawing on the true story of the White Rose – the resistance movement of young Germans against the Nazi regime – The Traitor tells of one woman who offers her life in the ultimate battle against tyranny, during one of history’s darkest hours.
In the summer of 1942, as war rages across Europe, a series of anonymous leaflets appears around the University of Munich, speaking out against escalating Nazi atrocities. The leaflets are hidden in public places, or mailed to addresses selected at random from the phone book. Natalya Petrovich, a student, knows who is behind the leaflets – a secret group called the White Rose, led by siblings Hans and Sophie Scholl and their friends.
As a volunteer nurse on the Russian front, Natalya witnesses the horrors of war first-hand. She willingly enters the White Rose’s circle, where every hushed conversation, every small act of dissent could mean imprisonment or death at the hands of the infuriated Gestapo. Natalya risks everything alongside her friends, hoping the power of words will encourage others to resist. But even among those she trusts most, there is no guarantee of safety – and when danger strikes, she must take an extraordinary gamble in her own personal struggle to survive.
(Synopsis from Goodreads)
If you have been following my blog for a while, then you know that historical fiction is one of my favourite genres. While I enjoy reading books about all time periods, I tend to favour books set during the Second World War. What can I say, I am fascinated by this period in history. When you read a lot of books that are set during the same time period, you start to notice similarities between the various books. In the case of books set during World War Two, you tend to see a lot of books set in Nazi-occupied France, concentration camps, or England during the war. There are also a great many books about spy organisations, or other organisations which helped those who were persecuted by the Nazi party. These are some of the more fascinating aspects of this period in history, so it makes sense that they are prevalent in books. By no means is this a bad thing, in fact some of my absolute favourite historical fiction novels fit into these categories. That being said, it is refreshing to find a historical fiction novel that teaches you something new about a period in history that interests you. That is the case with The Traitor by V.S. Alexander, and I think this is partially why I loved this book so much.
Considering how many books I have read which are set during the Second World War, I am surprised that I have never heard of the White Rose before picking up this book. The White Rose was a resistance group led by a group of students at the University of Munich during World War Two. The purpose of this group was to create active resistance against the Nazi regime through anonymous leaflets and graffiti. It was a non-violent group. In the authors note, V.S. Alexander says that he has “always found World War II a tragic, terrifying, and humbling subject,” and that he was particularly fascinated by the White Rose movement. The White Rose has been extensively covered by academics, historians, and even filmmakers in the past, but I’ve never seen a fictional novel about this organisation. (I’m sure there are other ones, I am just not aware of them – if you know of any, please comment below and I will look them up!) I am actually surprised that I have not seen more about The White Rose in the past, because it is a fascinating subject.
“When you see the world in all it’s enchanting beauty, you’re sometimes reluctant to concede that the other side of the coin exists.” – V.S. Alexander, The Traitor
While The Traitor is based around the White Rose, the plot and majority of the characters are entirely fictional. Hans and Sophie Scholl, as well as some other members of the White Rose, do make an appearance, but the protagonist Natalya and her activities within the novel are invented. The story of Natalya is a compelling one. The Traitor is really the story of one woman’s determination to survive in Nazi Germany while sticking to her values and beliefs. It is a fascinating story; I did not want to put it down until the very end. I have a tendency to incessantly talk about books that I truly love, and that proved true when I finished this book. It has been added to my mental list of excellent historical fiction novels, and I know that I will be recommending it to people for years to come.
My only slight criticism of this book is that I would have liked to see a bit more about the White Rose movement. However, I also understand why the author chose to take the story in the direction that he did, and his decision does make sense for the plot as a whole. I am now even more fascinated by this point in history, and look forward to reading more about the White Rose in the future.
I would like to thank V.S. Alexander, One More Chapter, and NetGalley for providing me with an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.