The Ways We Hide: WWII Historical Fiction
The Ways We Hide by Kristina McMorris
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publish date Sept 6, 2022; 420 pages
Thanks to #NetGalley and #SourcebooksLandmark for the free copy of #TheWaysWeHide for review. The opinions are my own. This is by the author of Sold On A Monday, which I've had on my Kindle for a l-o-n-g time. Now I'll be reading it soon.
First Sentence: "Deep within me, a sense of dread buzzes and crackles, an electrical wire threatening to short. I’m trapped by the stage lights, the performance well in motion."
Main Characters: Fenna Vos, illusionist; Arie Jansen, neighbor, friend turned lover; Mr. Hutton, MI19 special ops
Yes, it's another woman in WWII story, but it's loosely based on true events and has the unusual premise of the protagonist, Fenna, as an illusionist - great start, right? Reading the Author's Notes at the end made me realize how difficult it is to write historical fiction when you try to base it on facts. #1 the facts don't always work in your timeline; #2 the facts are usually full of holes; #3 the facts can be dry. How to pull that into a readable story??
I love the premise of this plot: A young woman becomes an illusionist who, because of her fascination with Houdini, designs her own tricks while working with a partner. Her expertise lands her in London working with MI19 in a secretive environment creating "illusions" for soldiers to help them get home if captured. Things like hidden maps, compasses, knife blades, etc. disguised as other common things. There really was a person who designed that "Bond" like stuff that helped save many lives.
While Fenna is working in London Arie, the love she left behind, is in Germany branded as a traitor. When given the opportunity, Fenna goes to Germany with the extraction team to help find him because she doesn't believe it's true. Through a series of events, Fenna finds herself alone in Germany searching for Arie, terrified, avoiding German SS patrols. When they reconnect, she discovers the reason for his supposed 'treason'. Using her skills of distraction and trick construction, she helps devise a plan to get them back to London.
I think if I'd known the book was based so much on real events I would have been more engaged. It's just amazing how an author can find several true events that happen reasonably close to each other, learn of fascinating people, and then find a way to pull those pieces together into a cohesive story. This book doesn't suffer from one of my main pet peeves: an abundance of angst. Though Fenna struggles with memories of a childhood trauma (one of the true parts of the story), McMorris doesn't let the character sink into self pity and oh-woe-is-me hand wringing.
I have a small quibble with some of the dialog (particularly the men) which I guess is supposed to be reflective "of the era", but it sometimes felt corny and like a bad movie. That aside, the book is readable, well researched and written, and I recommend it as a different approach to a WWII novel.
I'll be sharing this review on The Intrepid Reader's historical fiction September reading challenge page. If you love a variety of historical fiction options, this link up is for you as readers share what they're reading throughout the month.