'I nearly drowned and Walter rescued me. That changes everything.'
Leipzig, 1930s Germany.
Hetty Heinrich is a perfect German child. Her father is an SS officer, her brother in the Luftwaffe, herself a member of the BDM. She believes resolutely in her country, and the man who runs it.
Until Walter changes everything. Blond-haired, blue-eyed, perfect in every way Walter. The boy who saved her life. A Jew.
Anti-semitism is growing by the day, and neighbours, friends and family members are turning on one another. As Hetty falls deeper in love with a man who is against all she has been taught, she begins to fight against her country, her family and herself. Hetty will have to risk everything to save Walter, even if it means sacrificing herself...
Some stories creep up on you out of the blue and utterly sweep you away and for me, People Like Us, was one of those moments. In a nutshell, this story depicts the atrocities of WWII, but personal courage, strength, bravery and hope shines brightly through to the forefront of the narrative. It was moving beyond belief, albeit disturbing at times.
The writing is openly honest and lays all it's cards down on the table. Nothing is off limits and the order of the day is to deliver the truth. The narrative spans many years as we follow Hetty's journey. As readers, we are witness to her every thoughts. It was a remarkable ride watching Hetty mould and shape into the woman we see in the concluding moments and I felt like I knew her extremely well, which made her journey all the more heartfelt.
Although the backdrop depicts the ravages of war, at the forefront we have a moving love story of Romeo and Juliet proportions. Struggle is an almighty theme that dives out of the book and touches each and every corner and character. But no more so than our star-crossed lovers. To dive further into the narrative I feel would reveal too many spoilers. So I shall curb my enthusiasm to relay to you all how special this book is and I'll simply say - read it!
People Like Us is a raw and brutal look at life, love and longing amidst the struggles of a Nazi regime. It stole my heart with its honesty and bravery and it's a book I'll never forget.
Read and reviewed with kind permission by Head of Zeus.
Louise Fein holds an MA in Creative Writing from St Mary's University. Prior to studying for her master's, she ran a commodity consultancy business following a career in banking and law. She lives in Surrey with her family. People Like Us is inspired by her family history, and by the alarming parallels she sees between the early 30s and today.