The Girl in the Photo by Catherine Hokin
Release date: 27 January 2023
Back cover blurb: 1944. ‘I have to go away, my darling. Please, be brave, stay alive, for me.’ Her mother’s voice breaks. The little girl tries to stop the forbidden tears from falling, as the train takes her mother, and she is left alone in the camp… Berlin, six years later. When Hanni Winter shows her new husband the heartbreaking photos she captured during the war, his reaction is unexpected. His face white, Freddy can’t take his eyes off the photo of a young girl around four years old. ‘That’s Renny,’ he whispers, ‘my sister, she was taken by the Nazis…’ Hanni remembers her perfectly – the child with the wide eyes and bitten lips, who wouldn’t let herself cry despite the chaos and cruelty all around them in the camp. Her heart had broken for the little girl as she took her picture, desperate to reveal the truth about the Nazis to the world. If that child is Renny, then they must try to find her. They must return to hell on earth. But when Hanni arrives at the black and white arch of the camp, she comes face to face with a man she fears more than any other. Can she find the strength to fight again, or will every hope for the future be lost forever? A heart-wrenching novel about love and courage in the face of terrible odds.
The third book in the Hanni Winter series, of which I thought there were three... but after reading this I believe (or at least am very much hoping that there is at least one more to come!). For those who haven't read any of the previous novels, you could definitely go in to this as a standalone - but I would highly recommend you read the others in the series.
Hanni Winter, formerly known as Hannelore Foss is the daughter of a high ranking former concentration camp commandant SS officer, Reiner Foss. She has spent years both during the war and after trying to think of a safe way to expose him without putting her own life in danger. Each time she comes close, he fires a warning shot her way.
Now a successful photographer, Hanni finally feels ready to exhibit some of the photographs that she took during the War. She knows it is a dangerous thing to do, aware that it will stir some uncomfortable and deliberately repressed memories for some. But she believes that it is important.
Nothing can prepare her for what will follow.
Freddie, Hanni's husband recognises his Sister, Remy in one of the photographers taken in Theresienstadt Ghetto. Suddenly after all these years, he has hope that she may still be alive. Deep down he knows that is unlikely, but that doesn't stop him wanting to try and track her down.
Hanni is reluctant at first, she knows that Freddie is likely setting himself for disappointment, and she doesn't want to see his heart break all over again. She also has a deep personal reluctance to revisit Theresienstadt which is where Freddie believes that their search much start.
Of course, Hanni loves Freddie so much that she can't let him go alone, she must put her own feelings aside, and accompany her husband on his journey. Even if they don't find Remy, at least then he may be able to get some closure about what happened to her after the last saw her.
When they eventually get a lead Freddie is overjoyed, Hanni is fearful. She understands that they are now in very dangerous territory and to get the ending that they want, they may need to enlist the help of a person she wishes was dead, and Freddie doesn't know exists.
What follows is a rollercoaster of events and a whirlwind of emotions. I can't really comment anymore, as I don't want to give anything away, but I am a believer that things happen for a reason, and this will make sense when you read the novel for yourself.
Highly recommended and I can't wait to read more.
The Girl in the Photo is available now via Amazon online and good book shops.
Thank You to the publishers who approved my request via netgalley in exchange for an honest review.