The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly

The Golden Doves – AD sent for review

disclosure:  we were sent the book mentioned for the purpose of review

Whilst I was on holiday I got to enjoy a really beautifully written novel.  The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly was published earlier this month, and it’s one of those books that you just can’t put down.

The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly

The Golden Doves is a historical fiction novel which tells the story of two young women, Josie and Arlette who were thrown together in Paris during the Second World War, and who in 1952 are still dealing with the ghosts of the past whilst trying to find peace in a post war world.

Josie Anderson is the daughter of an American diplomat and a French singer who is also Jewish.  Her father has been assigned to Paris but is stuck in Rome as the Germans invade.  Josie, her mother and grandmother were unable to leave France before the Germans arrived as her grandmother is too frail to travel.  Her mother takes in washing so that the family can survive and they are could face deportation at any time.

Arlette LaRue comes from Alsace, daughter of a German mother and half German father who both died long ago, leaving her living with her heartless Auntie, a passionate Nazi.  She has met and fallen in love with a young  German boy called Gunther Wagner, and one afternoon of passion before he joins the SS Panzer Divisions sees her fall pregnant.  When her Auntie discovers she is pregnant and that the baby is due any day, she decides that this child is a gift for the Reich and drags poor Arlette to Westwald, a place where Aryan babies are born and donated to German families for adoption. When Arlette gives birth to baby Willie, with the help of one of the nurses, they manage to escape and Arlette heads to Paris in the hope of keeping her young son safe.

In The Golden Doves, the chapters regularly switch from the 1940’s to 1950 and are told from either Arlette or Josie’s point of view.  We follow the young women who both end up working for the Resistance in Paris, are then lodged together with Willie and are known by the code name The Golden Doves.  The women are ultimately captured and sent to the notorious concentration camp Ravensbrück. They witness unspeakable acts as well as witnessing the arrival at the camp of Josie’s mother and grandmother.

After the war Josie is back in America working for the US Army, vetting Nazi scientists that the US Government want to work on their space programme.  Arlette is in Paris, working in a cafe with other Ravensbrück survivors, whilst desperately searching for her son who was taken from her in the camp when he was only a year old. The two women are reunited and when there’s a chance that Willie may be living in an orphanage in French Guiana, Arlette flies out in the hopes of finding her son at last.  Little do either of them know what ghosts will reappear as The Golden Doves draws to a close.

I absolutely loved this novel, heart-breaking as it was to read at times, and even more so when you know that the story is based on actual events.  I had no idea just how many Nazis totally evaded justice and were actually assisted by our governments to resettle.  I was aware that some scientists were recruited after the war but this book really brought home that reality.



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