Title: People Like Us
Author: Louise Fein
Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Head of Zeus
Publication Date: 7th May 2020
Leipzig, 1930s Germany
Hetty Heinrich is a perfect German child. Her father is an SS officer, her brother in the Luftwaffe, herself a member of the BDM. She believes resolutely in her country, and the man who runs it.
Until Walter changes everything. Blond-haired, blue-eyed, perfect in every way Walter. The boy who saved her life. A Jew.
Anti-semitism is growing by the day, and neighbours, friends and family members are turning on one another. As Hetty falls deeper in love with a man who is against all she has been taught, she begins to fight against her country, her family and herself. Hetty will have to risk everything to save Walter, even if it means sacrificing herself…
I am a huge fan of historical fiction and I had been hearing really good things about People Like Us so my expectations were high. I can confirm that those expectations were not only met, but exceeded! The story follows Hetty Heinrich, a girl living in 1930s Leipzig, whose family is fully entrenched in the Nazi regime. Hetty’s view of the country she loves and the man who runs it is put to the test when she begins to fall in love with her elder brothers friend, Walter. Walter is Jewish and loving him goes against everything Hetty thinks she knows but as Germany becomes more and more dangerous for Walter and anyone else who doesn’t fit with the Nazi ‘ideal’, Hetty realises that most of what she thought she knew is a lie.
I loved this book, it completely drew me into the lives of these characters and I could not put it down until I knew how their story would end. With the knowledge of what is to come in World War Two it is initially extremely difficult to like a character like Hetty, who is in awe of Hitler and truly believes he is a force of good, yet somehow this talented author managed to find the nuance and intricacies of living in an incredibly tense and catalytic moment in history and made me feel completely invested in Hetty and her life. People Like Us shows with terrifying clarity how Hitler took advantage of a perfect storm of sorts in Germany. Hetty is taken in by the propaganda of the Nazi party, fuelled by her SS officer father, who runs a newspaper which spouts the Nazi message and by her friends and relatives, most of whom believe in Hitler’s ‘vision’. However, she slowly becomes disillusioned as she begins to accept that the rhetoric the Nazi party is preaching is full of violence, hate and lies. She falls in love with Walter, a smart and genuinely kind young Jewish man and through this love she finds the strength and courage within herself to fight against the seemingly unstoppable Nazi machine, no matter what it costs her.
People Like Us is beautifully written and incredibly evocative. 1930s Germany is vividly brought to life in these pages and my heart broke again and again as cruelty and fear reigns. There is a lot of horror in this book but there is also a great deal of hope. Even in the darkest of times, there are those who refuse to let hate win, who fight for what is right even if it costs them their lives. Hetty and Walter’s relationship is portrayed in such a sensitive and tender way. I was desperate for them to somehow find a way to be together even as forces out of their control conspire to destroy them both. People Like Us is an emotional, elegant, moving and incredibly thought-provoking read which will remain in my mind for a very long time. I really cannot recommend this book highly enough.
I kindly received a copy of the book from the publisher. My review is entirely my own honest opinion.