I’ve already reviewed the first two brilliant books in Jane Thynne’s Clara Vine series and had to come back and let you all know how much I absolutely loved A War of Flowers, the third instalment in this gripping and darkly evocative series of books set in the glittering but dangerous world of pre-war Berlin, where people are already scared to death, food is already scarce and Hitler and his revolting cronies are treated like demo-gods by their fanatical followers as Europe trembles on the very brink of war.
I absolutely love Clara Vine, the half German, half English heroine who in the first book ran away from her dull upper crust life in order to become a film actress in the celebrated Ufa studios in Berlin (and ends up working as a spy for the English government), which is under the control of Josef Goebbels, who takes a rather closer than is entirely necessary interest in its actresses. His interest in Clara, however, is not wholly sensual – although her father is a known fascist sympathiser, which opens many doors for her, much to her discomfort as she does not share her father’s sympathies, he is torn between not entirely trusting the alluring Fraulein Vine and occasionally requiring her assistance. They have an uneasy relationship that underlines how menacing and frightening Berlin must have been at the time as it became a city where no one could trust anyone else.
This third instalment, A War of Flowers starts off in Paris, where Clara has just wrapped up filming her latest film and is enjoying some brief leisure time before she has to return to Berlin. Thanks to her status as a well heeled film actress, she has managed to gain admittance to the circles of the Nazi wives – unfulfilled, nasty and downright sinister types like Magda Goebbels and Emmy Göring, who enjoy the glamour that Clara brings to their parties while deploring her Englishness. She’s never totally trusted but still they can’t help letting slip interesting and pertinent little nuggets of information that she duly reports back to her spymasters back in London. In A War of Flowers she is asked to go for the biggest fish of them all: Eva Braun, the rather naïve, sweet and film obsessed secret girlfriend of Adolf Hitler. Mostly shunned by the other wives, who view her as an unpardonably parvenue simpleton, she lives a solitary life, spied on by her husband’s cronies and their henchmen and unable to lead a normal life. Although Clara goes in with the intention of befriending Eva with the aim of getting as much information as possible from her, it’s obvious that she ends up feeling a certain sympathy with the other young woman.
As a reader, I would have to say that this insight into the really quite frankly weird world of the Nazi WAGs (Wives And Girlfriends for those who don’t know) is really the highpoint of these books and boy, does it deliver with loads and loads of juicy details about their private lives, internecine squabbling, affairs and ridiculously opulent lifestyles in mansions crammed full of stolen masterpieces and Nazi paraphernalia. It’s superbly fascinating and makes it clear that Jane Thynne has REALLY done her research. In fact, I would love it if she wrote a factual book JUST about this as I think it would be a corker.
This isn’t the only reason I love these books though – I also really like reading about Clara’s career at the increasingly politically influenced and propaganda shilling Ufa studios, where everyone is terrified of losing their jobs as increasingly draconian laws restricting the employment possibilities of Jewish people are introduced by the Reich and no one wants to fall foul of Goebbels. The gloomy, menacing atmosphere of Berlin, already beleaguered and miserable before the war has even begun, is also brilliantly evoked and really adds a gritty texture to the book. I hadn’t been to Berlin when I read the first two books so geographically it didn’t mean anything to me, but now that I have visited and seen some of the places mentioned for myself, it really has come to life for me – this would therefore be a great series to take with you if you’re planning a trip to Berlin.
Overall, I just can’t recommend these books enough – they are superbly entertaining, genuinely gripping (they’re spy books set in pre war Berlin so of course there’s lots of eerie, heart stopping chases through foggy deserted streets with stormtroopers hanging about on every corner) and offer a fascinating glimpse into the really quite amazingly oddball heart of what was one of the most terrifying and evil regimes ever to come to power.
Set against the infamous Jack the Ripper murders of autumn 1888 and based on the author’s own family history, From Whitechapel is a dark and sumptuous tale of bittersweet love, friendship, loss and redemption and is available NOW from Amazon UK, Amazon US and Burning Eye.
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