The Kom­man­dan­t’s Girl

  • Review
By – December 19, 2011

The Krakow resis­tance dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, and a title word, Kom­man­dant, might pre­dict a drab, cliché-filled nov­el. Instead, author Pam Jenoff, to her cred­it, has cre­at­ed a well-writ­ten, intense­ly read­able roman­tic tale — set in dan­ger­ous times. Nine­teen year old Emma has two lives. In one life she is Emma, a very Jew­ish bride sep­a­rat­ed by the war from her groom, Jacob. Love of Judaism, the Kaz­imierz com­mu­ni­ty, par­ents, rel­a­tives, and friends, all have con­strained Emma’s exis­tence when the Nazis move into the Krakow area. In her oth­er life, she is the girl,” renamed Anna and relo­cat­ed by the Resis­tance move­ment into Krakow, where, anony­mous and inse­cure, she pass­es as a Pol­ish gen­tile, and goes to work for the Kom­man­dant in Krakow’s Nazi headquarters. 

With her new Pol­ish iden­ti­ty firm­ly estab­lished and accept­ed, she gains both phys­i­cal com­fort and the dai­ly page-turn­ing and per­ilous emo­tion­al and phys­i­cal chal­lenges that form the core of the nov­el. Uncer­tain­ty plagues both Jacob and Emma, miles apart and know­ing lit­tle about each other’s dai­ly life. Sym­pa­thet­ic Poles make occa­sion­al appear­ances. The Kommandant’s human com­plex­i­ty unfolds as Jenoff moves her tale through the war years. 

This book, appro­pri­ate for upper-school ages and pos­si­bly adult read­ing groups, has a read­ing guide. Acknowledgements.

Arlene B. Soifer earned degrees in Eng­lish, and has had many years of expe­ri­ence as a free­lance writer, edi­tor, and pub­lic rela­tions professional.

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