A debut historical novel of betrayal, reprisal, defeat, and hope in World War II Czechoslovakia.
The story opens with the assassination of Nazi official Reinhard Heydrich on the streets of Prague, then introduces readers to the citizens of Lidice, the town that would soon be destroyed by the Nazis as retribution. The townspeople—including Chessie Sabel and her son, Ondrej; Katrenka Becke, the pregnant widow of a German Czech; bully Ignace Tichy and his younger brother Milan; and self-important Klaudie Cizek—have no idea what the consequences will be when German troops enter the town, but the women and children who survive the initial massacre later find themselves dealing with the horrors of the Ravensbrück concentration camp, the Nazis’ attempts to “Germanize” Czechs who meet certain criteria, and ongoing battles between the Nazis and the Resistance. Those who make it through these trials reunite after the war to see that Germans are held accountable for their crimes and to investigate the fate of Lidice’s children. Although the book’s concluding pages leave open the possibility of a sequel, Sandrick delivers a complete story in which all the characters’ arcs feel satisfying and logical, and in which scenes of violence and cruelty are never overused for shock value. A lengthy list of historical figures at the start of the book and a thorough bibliography at the end make it clear that the novel is based on substantial research. The author’s descriptions feel overwrought at times (“twirling his hand as if flicking a fencing foil”). This is particularly evident when the close-third-person narration relates the melodramatic thoughts of Nazi characters (“Heyrich looked away from the man with contempt. Stupid Czech! This man clearly did not meet RuSHA racial criteria!”) and it sometimes slows the pace of the overall narrative.
A well-researched, if occasionally overwritten, tale of the horrors of war.