Bingo Square: History Schmistory
Kate Quinn’s follow up to The Alice Network once again follows multiple timelines and perspectives, though the timelines are much closer together this time around and involve three people. After a short prologue which includes the only part from the perspective of the titular huntress and a newspaper article introducing the war crimes the huntress committed during World War II, the novel alternates between the character views of Jordan, a teenage girl living in 1946 Boston. Her widowed father, an antiquarian, has met a young refugee widow from Europe with a young daughter and quickly fallen for her. While Jordan tries to be happy for her father, and almost immediately accepts young Ruthie as her younger sister, she is still hesitant about some of the discrepancies in Anneliese’s story. Jordan, however, is not sure if this is another flight of fancy of a protective daughter or if she actually has good instincts as a photographer and potential journalist, her dream profession.
The second view is Ian, a former English journalist, who has spent the time since the war gathering evidence on various war criminals to see them brought to justice. After the Nuremberg Trials, the world was happy to close its eyes to justice and move on, but Ian and some others are still driven to bring the perpetrators to justice, and the huntress is a bit of a special project to him, though she has disappeared without a trace. She was the mistress of a Nazi officer stationed in Poland and by witness reports happily participated in his activities, committing her own atrocities, including the murder of six Jewish children.
The final point of view is Nina, a Russian woman with a mysterious past. Ian had met her in Poland after the war while pursuing the huntress and married her to help her get papers to England but has not seen her since. However, when his colleague Tony decides they should pursue the huntress as their next target, he invites Nina, one of the only witnesses able to describe the huntress, to help them, and she gladly joins the mission. Nina’s chapters flash back to show her escape her small village in Siberia to join a flying school, and eventually join the women’s aviation section of the Soviet Army, dubbed the Night Witches by frightened German enemies.
Most readers will quickly make assumptions regarding the identity of the huntress, but the real tension in the story is from how the Nazi hunters will trace her, the suspense behind building the case, whether they will make it in time or loose the thread again. Additionally, I thought the parts about serving in the Soviet military were fascinating so even though Nina as a character was rather coarse, I actually quite liked her chapters. Jordan, too, was interesting as she was inspired by women correspondents from World War II while everyone around her is trying to push her into a conventional life.
I’m a sucker for historical fiction, especially anything involving World War II so I quite liked this novel as it dealt with both the war itself through Nina and the aftermath and the idea of accountability with the Nazi hunters. Many are ready to move on and let go but the victims didn’t have that option so it was up to the few to stay focused on the concept of justice.
Bingo Square: History Schmistory