Set, initially, at the start of World War II, when Germany and the USSR were allies, we meet Kira, a Russian military interpreter and Werner, a young, German soldier who meet in Poland, whilst their superiors are discussing the things allies discuss at the time of war. Kira and Werner fall completely and hopelessly in love, with the ultimate plan being for Kira to defect to Germany and the pair to marry. Herr Hitler, however, has other ideas and when Germany reneges on it's mutual non-aggression treaty with the Soviet Union and invades their territory, the two lovers find themselves facing each other on the battlefield. How can their love possibly survive the horrors both will experience, as atrocities are committed by both sides, on their enemies? Is there a way out for these two lovers, or was their future doomed when the first Panzer division rolled into Soviet territory?
In many ways, this story reads like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet; the two lovers destined to never be together. As each chapter alternates between Kira and Werner, the reader is drawn into deep sympathy for these characters, as they try to make sense of the horror that their daily lives have devolved into. As a reader, I can honestly say, by the end of the book I alternated between hope and despair for this angst-ridden pair, as they both tried desperately to keep the warmth of their love alive despite the horror.
This is a tough book to read, partly because Midwood is so accurate in her depictions of the true horrors of this war. She does not hide from the raw senselessness and violence that saw one quarter of the population of the Soviet Union wiped from the face of the earth, in the bloodiest conflict in human history. She doesn't gloss over it - and neither should she. This was a horrific war that, at times, portrayed the very worst of the human condition, but... and it's a big BUT, this war was also capable of showing great human kindness, understanding and love and Midwood displays this beautifully and with great tenderness. I think the author summed it up perfectly when she talked about how individual soldiers from both sides, quickly found common ground when they were forced into a position of cohabitation, as they were in the Russian medical centre. German and Russian wounded rapidly realised they had much more in common, that drew them together, than that which pulled them apart. It is this insightful writing by Midwood, that lifts this book FAR above your average war story.
As I said earlier, I believe this book is Ellie Midwood's most powerful and most enjoyable book to date. I can only wait, with bated breath, for the next missive from this ultra-talented author's pen. A Motherland's Daughter, A Fatherland's Son is an absolute triumph and a must read for all fans of the genre and all readers everywhere. Bravo, Ellie Midwood!