The Golden Doves by Martha Hall Kelly
Many Thanks to Ballantine for my copy of The Golden Doves which I received in exchange for an honest review.
Standing pride of place on my book shelves is a copy of Martha Hall Kelly's Sunflower Sisters, a well-researched historical novel of epic proportions. Indeed a lot of my history with this blog is tied up with Martha Hall Kelly. I read Lilac Girls for an online reading group run by a favourite blogger during lockdown. This was only my twelfth review on the blog, and made me realise that I wanted to pursue the blog further. The aforementioned Sunflower Sisters was the first time a publisher had approached me to review one of their novel. It was a celebratory day that day I can tell you! These novels are the cornerstones of my humble blog, so I have quite a soft spot for the novels of Martha Hall Kelly.
And so we come to the latest offering from Martha Hall Kelly. I was keeping everything crossed that, like her previous reads, this would deliver. And it certainly did, but not in the way I expected. Let's get to it shall we.
Josie and Arlette steal many Nazi secrets before they and their loved ones are caught and sent to Ravensbrück, the notorious concentration camp for women. They manage to survive, but not without scars – and ten years later, a new mission will have them traveling around the world seeking a Nazi fugitive who needs to be brought to justice.
I adore how in some way Martha Hall Kelly has managed to weave a gossamer fine thread throughout her novels linking each book together. The novel, Lilac Girls was inspired by a visit to the home of Caroline Ferriday, an American philanthropist who bought to light the experimentation on a group of women known as the 'Rabbit Girls' at Ravensbrück Concentration Camp during the Second World War. This novel keeps those links going, but please note you are absolutely fine to read this as a standalone novel.
Set in the 1950's, the novel follows the life of 2 women. Arlette, based in Paris, who after an affair with a young German soldier has a child. When we join the novel, we know that Arlette is separated from her child and desperate to find him.
Josie is living in the States and is involved in the covert recruitment of ex-Nazi scientists as part of the weapons race. If the scientists fail to be recruited for American efforts, they may fall into the hands of Russia. Every effort is made to recruit these men and women. Past crimes are erased, new identities formed and seemingly abhorrent actions forgotten. This does not seem to square with Josie, who has spent time in a Concentration Camp and witnessed first hand the appalling treatment.
But when Arlette is approached by an individual purporting to know the location for her son, and it coincides with a new potential recruit for Josie, the story begins to flash back to the actions of these 2 women during the war working for the resistance. It is here that Martha Hall Kelly's excellent research comes into its own. We learn about the baby farms, the work of the resistance and the great personal peril any operative faced should they be caught. Our gossamer fine, linking thread is the Rabbit Girls and their presence at the camp.
The action quickly moves to French Guiana, where Arlette is invited to a camp for children displaced by the war, but is there something sinister afoot here? Why do the boys become ill for no reason, and why is the Priest in charge so regimented and secretive. Is her son one of the group?
It is here that Martha Hall Kelly surprises us as this turns the novel into a rather excellent thriller. The action moves at quite a pace and I often found myself staying up late to read just one more chapter. Will Arlette be able to leave with her son? What is actually going on in the camp in French Guiana? And is there a hidden Nazi scientist in its midst?
Excellent research, wonderful story-telling with much empathy and an excellent thriller to boot. I am delighted to report that this is another cornerstone of a novel.
Thank you again to Ballantine for the opportunity to review this brilliant novel.