A Story of Romance and Espionage in World War II
I receiceved a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Looking for a book with romance, mystery, and espionage? Your search is over.
Searching for Gertrude by D.E. Haggerty follows two characters, Rudolf and Rosalyn in their attempt to find Rudolf’s lost love Gertrude. Gertrude’s family leaves Germany in 1933 after Germany appoints Adolf Hitler as chancellor. According to the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum, it didn’t take long for the Third Reich to strip German citizens of their human rights and open its first concentration camps.
Gertrude’s family was Jewish. Rudolf was not. Consequently, Gertrude’s father chooses to move his family to Turkey, favoring his family’s safety over his daughter’s love for Rudolf. Rudolf is devastated. He assuages his hurt and anger by openly opposing the Nazis, but his father points out that this is not a good idea: “’I didn’t say you should stop opposing [the Nazis]. I said you can’t continue with your current activities. Activities, may I remind you, which have gotten you noticed at college.’” Rudolf’s father asks, “’Have you ever considered you can do more damage from within than from without?’”
Rudolf heeds his father’s advice and studies Oriental history and culture, which gets him a job with the German consulate in Turkey where he hopes he can finally find his Gertrude. In his quest for Gertrude, Rudolf enlists the help of Rosalyn, an altruistic Jewish-American nanny, and Malcolm, a British spy.
The Charm of Searching for Gertrude
I’m not a huge fan of romantic books. I have no idea why. I love chick flicks. I was obsessed with 27 Dresses for years. I should like romantic books too right?
Because historical romance isn’t usually my favorite genre, I didn’t think I was going to love this book. As with Carnegie’s Maid, however, I was wrong. Searching for Gertrude is satisfying in a way few books are, and I enjoyed it. Searching for Gertrude is well written and tidy. There are no loose ends or trying to be more than it is: a sweet love story set in World War II. Haggerty's writing style is to-the-point, no flowery language or overblown setting descriptions, which helps make Searching for Gertrude a light read as far as World War II novels go.
I also enjoyed the espionage and mystery in Searching for Gertrude. Did anyone else want to be a spy when they grew up? Malcolm’s slight-of-hand and other “tricks of the trade” fascinated me. I also sympathized with Rosalyn. Although Nazi Germany no longer exists, the world is still rife with injustice, and I often find myself asking, “but what can I do? I’m nobody.” Unlike me, however, Rosalyn persists and gets involved in her own little spy ring.
Finally, the food Haggerty describes in Searching for Gertrude sounds so delicious that I found myself craving ezme and Turkish fish dishes late at night. (That’s when I do most of my reading.) I was so enthralled with the food in Searching for Gertrude I’m dedicating my next article to the food Haggerty discusses in the book. Keep an eye out for it in about two weeks.
The History in Searching for Gertrude
As an American, I always associate 1941-1945 with Hitler and World War II. Searching for Gertrude reminded me that Hitler persecuted Jews and other “dangerous” people long before 1941. In fact, Rosalyn gets upset about the United States’ reluctance to get involved in World War II. She thinks, “There must be some army that could stop Hitler’s destruction of the continent. If only the Americans would get off their lazy butts and join the war efforts, but she feared the U.S. would need a very compelling reason to join yet another ‘European’ war.”
Despite the fact that I doubt someone during World War II would have actually used the phrase “lazy butts,” Rosalyn has a point, a point that Amy Bloom reiterates in White Houses, another work of fiction: “Every Jewish friend the Roosevelts had begged Franklin to do more, sooner, and got nowhere.”
The Pearl Harbor Visitors Bureau explains, “During an emergency cabinet meeting called by Roosevelt immediately after the war erupted in Europe, it was agreed that the United States would remain an outside influence unless directly threatened or attacked.” The Visitor’s Bureau blames a lackluster military, a World War I hangover, and the Great Depression for the United States’ refusal to enter World War II. And that very well may be. Unfortunately, when I was in grade school, my assumption, based on my history education, was that the United States gets involved in wars that don’t concern us so that people in less privileged countries can enjoy the same freedoms we do.
Boy did I get that wrong!
I’m not going to make assumptions about FDR because I’m neither a historian nor a World War II expert. But my point is that as American citizens we have a duty to hold our government accountable for its actions. Blind patriotism isn’t patriotism at all.
As for the rest of the history in Searching for Gertrude, Haggerty did my work for me. At the end of the book, she includes a section of historical notes. Haggerty not only explains the historical significance of the sinking of the SS Patria, the Pera Palace bombing, the Park Hotel, and the Struma tragedy, but she also explains where she deviated from history in the book. She even created a series of posts that explore even more history on her blog. I would regurgitate that information to you here, but Haggerty is much more articulate than I am, so if you read Picking Books for the history, you’re definitely going to have to pick up Searching for Gertrude to learn more.
Searching for Gertrude
by D.E. Haggerty
D.E. Haggerty. 224pp.