Historical Fiction in two timelines: The Huntress doesn't disappoint
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
Genre: Historical Fiction
Published 2019, 530 pages
My sister Donna highly recommended this book to me at the end of last year - I 'd read a couple of WWII books fairly recently so felt like I needed a break from the genre. AND, I was in the midst of a push to finish books for my reading challenges (see my results for the 5 challenges above in the Challenge tab). I'm SO glad I made it one of my early 2021 reads!
The general plot is that a British war journalist (Ian) and American Jew from Brooklyn (Tony) have combined their skills after the war to hunt for Nazis and bring them to trial. Ian is the researcher and moral compass while Tony is the chameleon charmer who excels at interviewing and inveigling information from people. They've had some success but have been frustrated by their most elusive prey, the Huntress. They are joined by Nina, a decorated Russian pilot who has her own reasons for joining the hunt.
The other part of the story revolves around Jordan, a young woman living with her widowed dad in Boston. Jordan has a passion for photography and dreams of being a world-renowned correspondent but her dad his heart set on her taking over the family business and marrying her high school sweetheart. What's a girl to do?
Then her dad meets a charming woman who has a young daughter and has emigrated from Austria at the end of the war. He falls in love, marries, and though Jordan has a few moments of suspicion and uncomfortable uncertainty about Anna, she finds herself falling under her spell of calm and affection. What happens when circumstances bring the Nazi hunter team to Boston? Ahhh.....that's when things get interesting!
"Building a generation is like building a wall - one good well-made brick at a time, one good well-made child at a time. Enough good bricks, you have a good wall. Enough good children, you have a generation that won't start a world-enveloping war."
Strengths of The Huntress
Quinn does a terrific job of pulling two separately engrossing timelines together to make a thoroughly engaging whole. We are taken back to the war, specifically the Russian front and the challenges faced by female fighter pilots. I felt the absolute misery of their extremely difficult lives, but also saw their immense pride of being pilots.
The book also uses several points of view to pull the reader into the story. We learn of Nina's difficult childhood and how she ended up becoming a pilot. We learn about Ian's disillusion with writing about war atrocities. We learn less about Tony's history. Then there's the POV of the young Jordan and the developing relationship with her new stepmother. I particularly liked how Jordan grew and came into her own throughout the book.
The story is dominated by the three women: Jordan, Nina, and Anna. Jordan and Nina are complete characters that are compelling and fully developed. I feel like Anna stays more mysterious throughout the book and that's the only small quibble I have - as a villainess she didn't have enough "why" in her background for me.
The writing is excellent throughout - evocative of the various locales: Russian, Austria, and Boston. Dialog and characters are captivating. The plot moves smoothly through timelines and points-of-view. This 500+ page book just flew by! Donna and I both highly recommend this book!
Two other excellent WWII books I've read recently that also feature strong women and taught me about women's involvement in the war are The Nightgale by Kristen Hannah and The Lost Girls of Paris by Pam Jennoff. Both reviewed on Bookshelf Journeys.