The Secret Letter is a beautiful, yet heart wrenching tale which addresses the horrors of World War II from the perspective of the Germans and the British. It delves into the lives of two adolescent girls, not only from two different countries but quite different backgrounds, and their experiences during the years of the war. The story begins in 1939 and spans through until the early 1950s, following each girl, the difficulties that they faced and how one of them changed the others life forever.
We are told the story from two different perspectives: that of 13 year old Magda and 15 year old Imogen (this is how old they are when the story begins in 1939). Magda lives in a rural German village, not far from Munich, where she is forced to participate in Hitler related activities at school and pretend she hails him as the Fuhrer. This is something that she struggles with as she discovers over time, through communication with her brother, that Hitler is doing dreadful things (including taking her best friend away). Over the course of the book, Magda grows enormously, as she aims to do what is right and not what all the other Germans are doing. When enemy fighter planes go down near the farm, Magda does all that she can to assist and help them back to health so that they can make home to their families and to the cause against Germany. Despite being subject to harassment, sexual abuse and threats from the Gestapo, Magda stays true to her beliefs and fights for the freedom of all. I found her character developed so much throughout the book. At the beginning she made small changes to rebel against her school mates, which then led to larger changes including supporting the White Rose and hiding enemies in her house. I admired her strength and determination and how she had no fear, no matter what situation she was put in. She was such a selfless character who always wanted to help those around her who were going through hardships.
The second narrator is Imogen, a young British girl who is forced to move to the lakes with others adolescents from her city so that they are away from the risks of bombings. As she moves around throughout the war years, from the lakes to London, France and back again, she throws her heart and soul into her job working for the war effort as a Wren but she always feels like something is missing. Imogen struggles with her love life, as she has a couple of short flings but pines for her one true love, unsure if he ever loved her as more than a friend. I found Imogen’s love life throughout the book to really play with my emotions. She was a girl that knew what she wanted, but it was just out of her reach. This would have been the case for so many relationships within the war time, the men going off to war and the women never knowing if they would come back. Rix made this part of the plot so seamless, it was as if the reader was feeling the same emotions as the characters.
I adored this book from start to finish. By having the story span over a number of years, it was great to see all of the characters develop and change so much over time and the impact that their actions had on future events. I was immersed into the world of Germany and England and felt like I was a part of the story, the story, the characters and the events were extremely emotive. Rix writes beautifully and in such a way that the contents of each page feel lifelike. One part that really toyed with my emotions was when Magda was sexually assaulted, I was extremely upset and hoped that she would get her revenge. There was no point during this book where I felt the plot lacked or slowed down, it was a high paced adventure that kept me engaged throughout. The most special part of this book was reading through and trying to work out the connections between Imogen and Magda prior to anything being revealed. As the first chapter was told in the present day, a letter between the two characters, you knew that there was going to be some form of connection between them and it was fascinating seeing how Rix interwove their stories together. The most amazing part of this book was the relationships between the characters and I feel like this was what kept me so interested as I wanted to see what happened at the end.
I would highly recommend this to those who have read The Nightingale and The Book Thief and thoroughly enjoyed them. It is a story of sacrifice, love, motivation, strength and perseverance which captivates you until the final page. It is historical fiction but is based on true events which occurred during World War II. I was blown away by this book and I’m sure you will be too.
I rated this book: 5 Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Thank you to the publishers, Bookouture, and NetGalley for providing me with a review copy.
The Secret Letter will be released internationally on the 22nd of July 2019