World War II has always been a fascinating subject for me to read, whether fiction or non-fiction. I'm extremely interested by this period in history, so when an email comes into my inbox requesting my review of historical fiction that takes place primarily in Poland, it grabs me immediately. I only wish I could have read it much sooner than I did.
Douglas W. Jacobson has crafted an intense and thoroughly engaging novel about Adam, an American assassin and Natalia, an undercover Polish agent fighting the Nazis, two people who have lost their families because of the war and are now fully entrenched in the battle. Together they try to locate a horrifying 1940 Soviet order authorizing the murders of Polish Army officers and civilians. This massacre did take place and when I researched even more about it, I was dumbfounded by yet another moment in history I never learned until now.
The History I Should Know More About
The Katyn Order was a mass execution carried out by the Soviet NKVD. Approved by Joseph Stalin, Polish officers were murdered in the Katyn forest in Russia in 1940 and the number of victims is a staggering amount at approximately 22,000. (ref: Wikipedia)
|Monument in Katowice, Poland|
It's books like this that make me grateful for, well, books. Invariably there is always something that is new for me, and an event like this is one that we cannot forget. To do so, yet again does a disservice to the victims and their families, families who waited in vain for their loved ones to come home, never knowing that they had been mercilessly slaughtered.
Adam and Natalia were characters I immediately liked, along with a young teenager nicknamed Rabbit, a skillful messenger and a general jack-of-all-trades, who particularly stuck with me. Reading about history can sometimes be a dry experience, but with Jacobson's knowledgeable and masterful storytelling, The Katyn Order instead becomes an absorbing and suspenseful ride through the end of World War II. It's a thoughtful exposé of the truths surrounding this event, while at the same time positioning a fictional story as its primary driver, which keeps the reader excited to continue reading and learning at the same time. It's this device that makes it difficult to put the book down, and The Katyn Order provided me with that same result - once I picked it up, I couldn't stop reading. When I had to put it down, I continued to think about the story, the brutality of war, particularly World War II, and the graphic moments that were included successfully served to provide me with just enough insight into the experiences that Adam and Natalia went through together and separately. The barbaric execution of Polish officers still makes me speechless with the intense sense of mournfulness of the act.
While there were some moments of the love story between Adam and Natalia that had me shaking my head in disbelief, I had to question myself and ask what I would really do if I was falling in love and war raged around me. Because of this, I couldn't say I would or wouldn't act in the same way that the main characters did, and I'd like to think I'd be smart and run my butt off, far and away from certain death, but...maybe not. Maybe I would be completely overwhelmed with the magnitude of all of the emotions that war would force on me. So maybe I would just have a moment with a mysterious man while I was fighting to save my country and fighting for my people against horrible injustices. Now that I think about it, why not?
This book is available in stores now, published in May 2011. This comes highly recommended from me for those who enjoy historical fiction, particularly World War II.
About the Author
Douglas W. Jacobson is an engineer, business owner and World War II history enthusiast. Doug has traveled extensively in Europe researching stories of the courage of common people caught up in extraordinary circumstances. His debut novel, Night of Flames: A Novel of World Two was published in 2007 by McBooks Press, and was released in paperback in 2008. Night of Flames won the "2008 Outstanding Achievement Award" from the Wisconsin Library Association. Doug writes a monthly column on Poland's contribution during WW2, and has published articles on Belgium's WW2 escape organization, the Comet Line and other European Resistance organizations. Doug's second historical novel, The Katyn Order, which will be released in May 2011 focuses on one of history's most notorious war crimes, the Katyn massacre.
Click here to visit the author on his website.
FTC Disclosure: Thanks to Pump Up Your Book for providing me a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.