Late last year, as part of the Nonfiction November project a number of book bloggers posted their suggested pairings of nonfiction books with works of fiction. Even though I didn’t participate in that part of the Nonfiction November project, I nevertheless loved reading everyone’s suggestions. It’s always nice when you can follow-up a quality piece of nonfiction with an equally fine work of fiction. Like combining the right wine with the right cheese, finding a perfect pair of fiction and nonfiction that complement each other is a wonderful treat.
With that in mind, I’m happy to report that I recently stumbled upon a novel that pairs nicely with the subject of my last post, Savage Continent: Europe in the Aftermath of World War II. Martin Fletcher’s Jacob’s Oath: A Novel tells the story of two young Jewish lovers in post-war Heidelberg, Germany struggling repair their horribly shattered lives after years of war and Nazi oppression. During the Holocaust Sarah lived on the run, hiding in safe houses and basements. With his deceased mother a British national, Jacob was spared immediate execution or transport to Auschwitz and was instead sent to the “exchange camp” of Bergen-Belsen, along with other Jews the Nazis hoped they could eventually swap for German POWs held overseas. While imprisoned in Bergen-Belsen he survived the horrors of severe malnutrition, disease and sadistic guards. One of those guards, Hans Seeler nicknamed “The Rat” murdered Jacob’s brother and Jacob has vowed to kill Seeler and thus avenge his brother’s death. But will he turn his back on vengeance and instead begin a new life with Sarah?
I enjoyed Fletcher’s novel. I found it fast-paced and a bit of a thriller. With visions of post-war German’s wholesale destruction fresh in my mind after reading Savage Continent, I thought Fletcher did a credible job depicting that conquered nation’s shattered landscape. And in the midst of all this destruction are two young lovers, each one trying to come to grips with horrible personal loss. But while at the same time finding love in a place where neither of them would have expected it. How’s that for book pairing?