The purpose of historical fiction is to educate the reader in historical fact. There are dangers that authors need to be mindful such as the work being dull or flashy/trashy or being flat-out inaccurate. One recent historical novel that succeeds in teaching history in an interesting way is “War Torn” by Richard Harper. What makes this novel so effective is that it is an expert blend of three different sub-genres of historical fiction. These are suspense, military fiction, and romance fiction. Added in the mix is the story of how The Holocaust came into being. This is an aspect fo life in Europe during the 1930's and 1940's that is convincingly integrated into the story. This is a historical novel about ordinary people being swept up into extraordinary times.
At first glance, this book would appear to have an unlikely plot in that is about a German youth named Gunther and a young Jewish girl named Magda who are in love during the run-up to the start of World War II. Despite the fact that they are isolated from each other with little chance for communication and interaction, they remain in love throughout the war. This fact creates suspense in that it leads to the questions of whether or not such love can survive the evil and brutality of the times. It also makes you wonder if Gunther and Magda will be able to survive the war and its attendant Holocaust and whether or not reunite after the conflagration is over.
After reading “War Torn", you have a real feel for what the life of the young people was like during both the rise of the Nazis in Germany and also during the greatest war of all human history. This is important as most historical novels ignore the vast majority of the population who were not well off or occupied positions of power and prestige.
From the beginning, both Gunther and Magda are interesting and engaging characters. Her relationship, along with other characters in the story such as the parents, the anti-Nazi clergyman Father Peter and the close friends of both the main characters are what drives the story. You come to care very much about these characters. Unlike all too many historical movies or even historical novels, these are not modern people wearing historical clothing. You come to have an understanding of what 1930's/1940's people were really like in their historical setting.
Despite the fact that World War II has been an oft-written about the subject when it comes to historical novels, War Torn offers much to offer the reader that is interesting. At 156 pages, War Torn is not one of those absurdly long works that all too many historical novels written these days are. It has a consistently interesting blend of romance, suspense and military fiction. It shows the reader the true horror of the Nazis including the fact that some wounded German soldiers were murdered by the Nazis for not being good enough. It also shows the reader the horror of Kristallnacht, "the night of broken glass" in early November 1938 which is when the Holocaust really began. This is a novel that offers the reader lessons on what life under Nazi rule was really like.
War Torn by Richard Harper comes well recommended.