Book review: A Band of Steel by Rosie Goodwin

Falling in love with the enemy is never a good idea but when you are a Jewish girl and the man you love is a German, the outcome can be devastating.

By Pam Norfolk
Wednesday, 1st June 2011, 7:00 am

Rosie Goodwin’s moving novel featuring a family threatened by war and a forbidden affair is as heartbreaking as it is compelling.

No stranger to the stresses and strains of human relationships, Goodwin uses her deft touch, natural warmth and superb storytelling skills in a spellbinding story of love, loss and redemption.

In 1939, wealthy Jewish banker Ezra Schwartz and his wife Freyde are reluctant to abandon their luxury home in Cologne but to stay would almost certainly mean death in a concentration camp for themselves and their three children.

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The anti-semitism that has been simmering for years has now become a fierce blaze and they have no choice but to flee Germany.

With money stitched into their clothes and all that they can carry in a few shopping bags, the family sets sail for England knowing their lives will never be the same again.

After several months in the tough East End of London, Ezra finally rents a shop and general store in Nuneaton in Warwickshire and Freyde transforms the damp and dirty living quarters into a warm and comfortable home.

All the children speak English but youngest daughter Ariel still has problems settling into her new school and son Dovi, who had planned to train as a lawyer, finds himself in a foreign country with no qualifications and no job.

Only eldest daughter Adina, a compassionate and determined girl, is happy in her new life - she is offered work at a school and her sewing skills are much in demand.

Local girl Beryl Tait takes her under her wing and the two become good friends, but Beryl has her eye on some of the handsome German POWs who are allowed out into the town before curfew.

One of them, Karl Stolzenbach, a blacksmith from Bremen, is attracted to Adina and she is won over by his blue eyes and friendly smile.

Both young people are deeply embroiled in a war they wished to have no part in, but Adina cannot begin to imagine what her father would say if he knew she was friends with a German POW.

Soon relationships are stretched to breaking point and Adina runs the risk of losing her family forever.

A Band of Steel is a real tear-jerker, an unforgettable story that will delight Goodwin’s army of loyal and adoring fans.

(Headline, hardback, £19.99)