The Barnes & Noble Review
Harry Turtledove, the master of the alternate history, asks a fascinating question in this novel: What if Nazi Germany won World War II and ruled over most of Europe and North America well into the 21st century?
Heinrich Gimpel is a mid-level government worker living in Berlin with his wife, Lise, and their three children. Life is good for Heinrich and his family, who are living in the capital of a world-spanning Third Reich, the heart of the Nazi regime. And life will remain good so long as no one discovers that they're Jews.
Thus far, Heinrich and his wife have been model citizens and have stayed out of trouble; but as the political landscape of the Third Reich dramatically changes when a new Führer comes to power, their safety is put in jeopardy. As revolutionary reforms begin polarizing the populace, Heinrich tries to fend off the advances of his best friend's wife, with disastrous results.
Although In the Presence of Mine Enemies is decidedly more cerebral than Turtledove's popular alternate history Great War and Worldwar sagas, it is by no means lacking in excitement. The last few chapters of this novel are as action-packed and emotionally charged as any in recent memory. With dozens of major characters set against an incredibly well researched historical background, In the Presence of Mine Enemies is another Turtledove classic. Paul Goat Allen
Despite its intriguing alternative premise, Turtledove's lengthy tale of Berlin's Jews hiding in the open long after the Nazis defeated all their WWII enemies plods along in a series of vignettes told from the viewpoints of six different Jewish characters passing as "good Germans": Wehrmacht analyst Heinrich Gimpel, his wife, Lise, and their precocious 10-year-old daughter, Alicia; medieval English scholar Susanna Weiss; and physician's receptionist Esther Stutzman and her husband, Walther, whose computer expertise has helped many Berlin Jews shed their "unclean" ancestry. But as the Gimpels and their friends struggle to keep their secret culture alive, all around them chinks are appearing in the very foundations of the Reich, starting with the death of Hitler's second successor and the selection of a progressive new Fuhrer. Tepid characterizations, clumsy plot devices, interminable bridge sessions between the Gimpels and their Aryan friends, even some dialogue seemingly better suited to a drawling John Wayne than a Wehrmacht panzer commander (who defies the SS with "you're going to be mighty sorry"), all dilute the author's message of hope for these downtrodden remnants of the Chosen People. Closing on a curiously inconclusive note-or is it a lead-in to an equally ponderous sequel?-this account of an unlikely political thaw dribbles off into a puddle of clich s, sentiment and unconvincing coincidence. (Nov. 4) Forecast: The prolific Turtledove can't produce a winner like last year's Ruled Britannia, about Spanish-occupied Elizabethan England, every time. On the other hand, Steve Stone's striking jacket art, which features a clunky classical building that Albert Speer might have designed, with Nazi banners in front and satellite dishes on the roof, is sure to draw curious browsers. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
This masterful alternate history offers a near-future world split between the Third Reich and the Empire of Japan. Jews, gypsies, Negroes, and other "subhumans" have been exterminatedor have they? Heinrich Gimpel is a modest bureaucrat at the Wehrmacht headquarters in Berlin and an accountant who oversees the collection of tribute from the North American client states. Gimpel lives a seemingly normal life, but he hides a deadly secrethe and his family are covert Jews. On the surface, he reacts to a new Führer's loosening of the reins of power as any other German bourgeois mightbut underneath, he allows himself to hope. Friends are endangered when their second child develops Tay-Sachs. Gimpel is threatened when a coworker's Aryan wife accuses him of being a Jew as revengethen attempts suicide when his daughters are arrested as mischlings. But the younger children have never been told that they are Jews, and the eldest stands firm in her outraged denials, so eventually the family is released. The SS attempt a coup against the new Führer and his "liberal" policies, but Heinrich "mans the barricades" with his army coworkers, and defeats them. The story is told from several viewpointsGimpel's, his ten-year-old daughter Alicia's, his sister-in-law and professor of Middle-English Susanna, and other covert Jews. Its quick pace involves the reader, but the subtle variations on the world encourage consideration of root causes. Possibly Turtledove's strongest contribution to alternate history to date, this novel is highly recommended for senior high libraries. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P S A/YA (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Senior High,defined as grades 10 to 12; Adult-marketed book recommended for Young Adults). 2003, NAL, 454p., Ages 15 to Adult.