Posts Tagged ‘sophia’s war: the end of innocence’

sophia's war

Source: Review copy from author
Rating: ★★★★☆

His appearance in the book did not look any less formidable than it had in the papers.  In fact, his image made her feel uneasy.  His eyes seemed cold and distant.  His expression was harsh and there wasn’t even the slightest hint of any feeling or kindness on his face.  Sophia closed the book, allowing a finger to trace over the letters in the title.

(from Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence, page 93)

Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence is the first novel in a series by Stephanie Baumgartner that follows a young American girl living in Germany during World War II.  While all of her classmates are getting married and having children, 20-year-old Sophia leaves her parents behind in Virginia and embarks on a solo trip to a small German village in 1939 to help her elderly great aunt build a library in her home for the townspeople.  Marelda is a sweet, generous old woman who is lonely with her family so far away in Berlin and too busy to visit.  The two keep each other company while unpacking the books that will grace the shelves, and when Sophia’s cousin Diedrich arrives, she hopes to rekindle their close relationship.  But the boy she’d once considered a brother has changed.  Diedrich is cold and even mean, can’t hold a job, and takes a strange interest in Hitler’s Mein Kampf.

When Marelda and Diedrich leave Sophia alone to work on the library while they visit family, she strikes up a friendship with Adrian, a Wehrmacht war photographer who loves books as much as she does.  She’s not sure what to make of Adrian’s interest in her, given that she’s spent her life praying for God to lead her to the man she will marry and has no use for casual dates, despite her mother and best friend both urging her to test the waters.  However, when Sophia is forced by Diedrich to make a decision that goes against her firm Christian beliefs, she is cut off from Adrian and puts herself in danger — all out of a sense of duty and devotion.

Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence is a short novel with a strong heroine.  Baumgartner takes the time to develop Sophia so that readers really know and understand her, from her strong Christian faith (though I didn’t find the book preachy at all) to her stubbornness and independence, from her love for Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë to her unwavering devotion to her family.  Sophia’s character evolves in ways I hope are more fully explored in the next installment, particularly her willingness to live a lie.  The novel ends with many unanswered questions, particularly about Diedrich, but I was satisfied with Baumgartner’s scene setting and character development.

Baumgartner portrays a Germany in the early days of war through the eyes of an outsider.  Sophia sees many changes in the country since her last visit, from the increased military presence to the increasingly observant and suspicious villagers, and Baumgartner hints at the darkness to come when Sophia befriends a young Jewish girl whose family fled the city after Kristallnacht.  Changes happen more slowly in a small village, but the Nazis have already dug in their heels.  Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence is a solid first novel in a series, and I can’t wait to see how Sophia and the village change over the course of the war.

historical fiction reading challenge

Book 32 for the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge

Disclosure: I received Sophia’s War: The End of Innocence from the author for review.

© 2013 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.

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