The Huntress by Kate Quinn
Published by: William Morrow Paperbacks
Publish Date: 2019
Genre(s): Fiction, Historical Fiction, Suspense, World War II
HB&W Rating: 4
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Buy on Amazon: Barnes & Noble, Book Depository
Anyone completely unafraid when standing outnumbered among filthy strangers in a war zone was either idiotic, saintly, or dangerous.
From the author of the New York Times and USA Today bestselling novel, The Alice Network, comes another fascinating historical novel about a battle-haunted English journalist and a Russian female bomber pilot who join forces to track the Huntress, a Nazi war criminal gone to ground in America.
In the aftermath of war, the hunter becomes the hunted…
Bold, reckless Nina Markova grows up on the icy edge of Soviet Russia, dreaming of flight and fearing nothing. When the tide of war sweeps over her homeland, she gambles everything to join the infamous Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment wreaking havoc on Hitler’s eastern front. But when she is downed behind enemy lines and thrown across the path of a lethal Nazi murderess known as the Huntress, Nina must use all her wits to survive.
British war correspondent Ian Graham has witnessed the horrors of war from Omaha Beach to the Nuremberg Trials. He abandons journalism after the war to become a Nazi hunter, yet one target eludes him: the Huntress. Fierce, disciplined Ian must join forces with brazen, cocksure Nina, the only witness to escape the Huntress alive. But a shared secret could derail their mission, unless Ian and Nina force themselves to confront it.
Seventeen-year-old Jordan McBride grows up in post WWII Boston, determined despite family opposition to become a photographer. At first delighted when her long-widowed father brings home a fiancée, Jordan grows increasingly disquieted by the soft-spoken German widow who seems to be hiding something. Armed only with her camera and her wits, Jordan delves into her new stepmother’s past and slowly realizes there are mysteries buried deep in her family. But Jordan’s search for the truth may threaten all she holds dear.
Synopsis source: Goodreads
Westerners–show them an armed woman with a chestful of medals and six hundred sixteen bombing runs to her name, and what did they think? Wonderful, a nurse!
I loved Kate Quinn’s The Alice Network so much, so when I saw my mom reading this, I batted my eyes and asked, “pretty please, could I borrow it?” My mom has good taste, and a Barnes and Noble membership, so it works in my favor ;).
Then I saw where an Instagram friend, Ember @travelingwithbooksandcoffee had just finished The Alice Network, and we got to talking about Quinn’s next book, The Huntress, which was on both of our TBR lists, and we decided we needed a buddy read! It ended up being like a tiny sort of one-book-only book club with a few other bookish buddies @fortheloveofagoodstory, @lozziereads, and @myreadingzen. It’s so fun being able to discuss a book with others who have read right along with you!
I worried that this book wouldn’t be as good as The Alice Network, mostly because so many of the WWII lit I’ve read lately has been mediocre. BUT, I shouldn’t have worried at all because Ms. Quinn obviously knows her stuff.
Here we have three very different women, all connected with the intertwining theme of lakes and witches. First we have Nina, a total badass Soviet pilot who performs nightly bombing raids at the front. Next we have Jordan, whose new step-mother seems a bit suspicious to her photographer’s eye, because cameras don’t lie (at least not before Photoshop anyway). And we have die Jägerin, or the Huntress, the former mistress of a high-ranking Nazi officer, who shares her paramour’s sympathies exactly.
We are given three alternating points of view: Nina, Jordan, and Ian. The three stories start at different moments in time, but converge neatly, as if all the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. The chapters are short, but build the suspense very effectively, keeping you turning page after page.
Nina’s story reminded me a lot of Where the Crawdads Sing in a few ways. The most obvious similarity is her childhood upbringing and situation. Like Kya, Nina was left on her own by her siblings with their abusive drunk of a father, who had just enough sober moments to teach Nina a thing or two about hunting and living in the Siberian bush. Both characters are strong, smart, and one with their environment, if a bit savage as a result. Even the pacing was similar, in my opinion, a slow but steady climb. Hers was definitely my favorite POV we are given in the book.
Jordan’s POV shows us what the aftermath of the war looked like in so many ways. First, the idea that there were so many known Nazis living peacefully and un-prosecuted in the United States was eye-opening. But what impressed me most was that Quinn attempted to tackle the divided loyalty in the case of Jordan, her father, and her adopted sister. It illustrated the paradox of hating and loving someone in equal measures, and how neither one of those emotions can really ever go away.
Ian’s POV showed us that things are never really black and white. Which methods of interrogation are permissible, and at what point do you cross the line and become just like the people you accuse of savagery? Just how far can you go before avenging an injustice becomes meting out revenge? As interesting as this was, my favorite contribution of Ian’s came at the end, in the form of an article he wrote:
Time is a wheel, vast and indifferent, and when time rolls on and men forget, we face the risk of circling back. We slouch yawning to a new horizon and find ourselves gazing at old hatreds seeded and watered by forgetfulness and flowering into new wars. New massacres. New monsters like die Jägerin. Let this wheel stop. Let us not forget this time. Let us remember.
And just as was the case when I read The Alice Network, Ms. Quinn’s Author’s Note states that while her characters are entirely fictional, their exploits are based in fact. She goes on to describe the real-life people behind them and bits of their stories. I am so glad that books like this one, which feature female heroes, are gaining in popularity. I’m even more thankful that books like this also include suggested reading to learn more about the real women and their untold stories of bravery, courage, and sheer nerve, that would otherwise have been lost to time and overshadowed by their male counterparts. These women were total bosses, all of them, and their stories deserve to be shared.
The thing that kept me from giving this a 5 star review was with regards to The Huntress herself. Personally, I would love to have traded Ian’s perspective for die Jägerin‘s. While Ian’s perspective did serve to give us some background on our villain, and also the whole ‘how far is too far’ bit, I didn’t feel like his perspective was as crucial to a story that revolves around three women. I feel like die Jägerin could have been built up better if we’d had her perspective throughout the entire book, and not just in the small prologue. From the various perspectives we ARE allowed, we understand that Anna is cold and calculating, and that Herr Kolb is blatantly terrified of her. We are told that she hunts for the sport of it, and hides behind the convenient excuses of orders etc., but I never really felt it, not like I might have if I’d been given access to her private thoughts and motives.
All that said, it was a well-researched book, very insightful, and a great story. If you enjoy WWII lit, go pick this one up. It’s a quick, compelling read that you’ll enjoy.
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