The Month of March is a great month for authors at the JCC. We have two events with three incredible women. The first two are Jan Eliasberg and Kristin Harmel. I have had the pleasure of reading their books and reading interviews and interviewing the author myself. Both stories are historical fiction about strong women who are forced to make life-changing decisions and are also forced to make moral decisions as well in the face of a horrific war, especially for Jewish Women.
In Hanna’s War, written by Jan Eliasberg (Hachette, 16.99) was inspired by a real-life physicist, Dr. Lise Meitner. Jan found out about Dr. Meitner when she read an article about the Atomic Bomb that was dropped on Hiroshima and that a key component that allowed the Allies to develop the bomb was brought to the Allies by a “female” physicist from Germany who was developing it for the Germans who immigrated to America. Meitner and her long-term scientific partner, Otto Hahn, first discovered the nuclear fission of uranium in Germany but on the verge of the greatest discovery of a lifetime, all the protections her colleagues promised her evaporated immediately after Hitler annexed Austria. She was forced to flee to Sweden within hours of being transported to the camps.
Jan stated, “It seemed like an ideal setting for all the things that interested me: compelling characters in a complex emotional drama, on an epic canvas of moral, political, and social resonance; people whose lives are swept up in one of history’s most brutal moments.”
When asked how she balanced truth and fiction in the novel she said, “It is the unknowability of the past and necessity of writing our own histories in the face of that which is unknown.” I know that I was writing a piece of history through the lens of a female scientist and through my own lens as a female writer and storyteller and to fill in the unknowable with my own imagination.
Hannah’s war is a thriller because in the story someone in the top-secret nuclear lab had been leaking encoded equations to Hitler’s scientists. The chief suspect is the brilliant and mysterious Hannah Weiss, an exiled physic lending her talent to the mission. Hannah’s War is a thrilling wartime story of loyalty, truth, and the unforeseeable fallout of a single choice.
The Winemaker’s Wife (Simon & Schuster, 400 pages, $16.00) is set in Champagne, France and revolves around three women of different generations whose lives are entwined. In the present day, recently divorced Liv is visited by her French grandmother, who insists on taking her to France right away. Liv doesn’t know it, but her grandmother’s intention is to reveal her past, which will have a huge impact on Liv.
In 1940, as the Germans invade France, Inès is living at a champagne house called Maison Chauveau, owned by her husband, Michel. It seems like no matter how hard she tries to help out, she is made to feel that her beauty, not her intelligence, is her only asset. Céline, who is half-Jewish, is the wife of the head winemaker and is worried about her future and the fate of her family as the Occupation sets in.
I asked Kristin why she chose to write about women who are beautiful but underestimated. “It’s always interesting to write in historical fiction about issues that are very much still present today,” she said. “In the case of Inès and Céline, two of the main characters are overlooked because of their gender and youth, but the decisions they make are powerful, life-changing, and reverberate for generations to come.”
This book is a page-turner. Kristin carefully weaves the story of three women’s lives torn apart by love and betrayal. Thankfully, each of the women’s journeys and truths are revealed at the perfect time. The ending will surprise you.
Please make sure to check out these books and meet the authors at the Orlando JCC in Maitland on March 12th. Go to JCC website for more information and to reserve your spot.