Promise
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Promise

Alexandra Alt

At 15, Lene is questioning everything. She is sick of the compulsory League of German Girls meetings, and everyone being made to fight for a final victory that never seems to come. She is in love with Ludwig who lives upstairs and listens to enemy broadcasts. Like Lene, he rejects the war and the endless Nazi indoctrination. But he has caught the attention of his ruthless Hitler Youth squad leader, Kurt.

Unwittingly drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse, Lene has to watch every step, every word to protect those she loves. When Ludwig is ordered to the Eastern Front, can Lene and Ludwig hold on to their promise to one another and resurface from the darkness of the abyss in post-war Berlin?

Review

Set during WWII in Berlin, this story about two German teenagers is a fascinating look at what life was like growing up under Nazi rule. Lene is only fifteen, and her life has been dominated by the Nazis. She can’t speak her mind or do what she wants and if she doesn’t go to the compulsory League of German Girls meetings she could be imprisoned, or worse. Lene has also, unfortunately, attracted the unwanted attention of a ruthless Hitler Youth squad leader. To reject him would cause even more trouble.

Lene’s best friend and secret crush is her upstairs neighbour, Ludwig, and the two of them listen to illegal enemy broadcasts on the radio and talk about what might really be happening in the war – as opposed to what the Nazi propaganda says is happening. As the war rages on unsuccessfully for the Germans, Ludwig is conscripted into the German army. But will he survive the war?

The narrative is set in two parts: 1942–43 and then after the war is over, in 1946. After the war Berlin is in rubble, life is still very hard for survivors, and Lene has no idea if Ludwig is dead or alive. This is an engaging novel about the horrors of living under the Nazi regime from the perspective of an ordinary German teenager. It is suitable for readers aged 12+ who enjoy stories set in wartime.


Angela Crocombe is the manager of Readings Kids.

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