4 September 2014

Review: Saving Amelie by Cathy Gohlke


It’s September 1939, and Rachel Kramer has travelled with her father from her New York home to undergo her regular examination at the Institute, while her father attends an international conference on eugenics. She meets Jason Young at a ball while trying to escape from an overbearing suitor, and realises Young is the journalist who is trying to discredit her father’s research. However, an unusual request from a childhood friend leaves her with no one to rely on except the annoying journalist …

The start was a bit slow, as it was necessary to introduce several different characters, each a different thread to the story. This made the early chapters complex, but the pace improved quickly once all the essential elements of the story had been introduced—elements which were chilling, yet added a layer of realism to the plot.

Rachel was annoying with her naïve views, especially at first, but it was good to see her gradually change as she considered and rejected her long-held beliefs about her family and herself. The eugenics subplot was chilling, especially as I saw how Rachel had been raised to believe she was better than others—and it made me wonder how many people still believe this, and don’t recognise how the idea distorts biblical truth.

Jason was a strong hero, despite his inability to show the truth of the Nazi regime to those who needed to know in the US. It was good to see a man who wasn’t afraid to admit he needed to change, and to pursue truth despite the cost. The minor characters were also well-written, and fulfil a necessary part of this fast-paced historical thriller (with a touch of romance).

The thing I liked best about Saving Amelie was the depth of research that has gone into the writing, and the accuracy. I’ve read other books written by American authors and set in Germany during World War Two which downplay the Nazi oppression of the weak or those not deemed “Aryan” enough, and seem to look at Hitler’s Germany through rose-coloured glasses.

Saving Amelie is not like that. It shows the oppression in chilling detail, right from the early days of the war in September 1939. It shows the price paid by those who didn’t support the ideals of the Third Reich—a group which included many Christians. And it shows the activities of the German resistance, a needed reminder that not all Germans were complicit in the crimes committed by Hitler and his followers.

But, perhaps most importantly, Saving Amelie shows that there are still lessons to be learned from the rise of Adolf Hitler and World War Two. There is no “master race”. There is no such thing as “levels of evolution” within the human race—we are all equal in the sight of God. And ‘grace’ is isn’t the nice all-is-forgiven idea we’ve come to believe in the Western church. Grace is costly:
“We’ve come to practice cheap grace—grace that appears as a godly form but costs us nothing—and that is an abomination … it took the death of our Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior, to achieve that grace. It requires just as much from each of us”.

Thanks to Tyndale and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review. You can find out more about Cathy Gohlke at her website.


  1. Iola, I don't read a lot of WWII books because I have a hard time handling the Holocaust theme, but I wanted to read this one because of the German setting (my daughter leads a campus ministry in Tubingen and I've visited a couple of times). Chilling, definitely, but one of my all-time favorites.

    Tubingen wasn't bombed during the war because it didn't have any industry, so the Old Town has been preserved. When we visited the castle, Beth showed me a building off the courtyard where Hitler and his team often met. Now that was chilling!

    1. I can completely understand not wanting to read about the Holocaust—most of us read for enjoyment, and it's not a fun topic (the only thing that's worse is reading books about WWII Germany that ignore the Holocaust).

      And visiting a castle Hitler visited? Definitely chilling.

      Thanks for visiting, Carole!