Cover Image: The Prisoner's Wife

The Prisoner's Wife

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Member Reviews

4.5 stars, rounding up to 5.  

What a whirlwind book - and to think that it's based on a true story (told to the author by a former WWII POW). Amazing. From the very beginning, I found myself enamored by Bill and Izzy’s relationship & I just could not stop reading because I needed to know how their story ended. I can’t even imagine what the real versions of Izzy & Bill went through... just months and months of living in fear, knowing that each day they could have been discovered. 

”The Prisoner’s Wife” is a great piece of historical fiction, full of real places and real events. Brookes did an amazing job at taking all of the extensive research she did (over many years) & turning it into a wonderfully well-written book that tells a remarkable story of love and courage despite all odds. Highly suggest for fans of WWII-themed historical fiction.

Thank you to the author, Berkley Publishing, and NetGalley for a copy of the e-book in exchange for an honest review.
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The Prisoner’s Wife is inspired by a story related to the author by a war veteran whose recollections were beginning to dim. The details are included in an afterword which you won’t want to miss. The story begins in Czechoslovakia during the last year of World War II. The chapters alternate between narration by Izzy, a young farm girl chaffing under the restrictions of her mother and other chapters told from the perspective of a third person narrator who is able to recount the drama from the bigger picture. A work crew of British POWs are assigned to Izzy’s farm,  and it is not long before eager  Izzy and handsome British Bill fall in love. At this point the story was pretty much a rather conventional war romance  churned out by many over the years. I confess I lost interest and put the book aside for awhile. 
When I returned to the story it had taken a remarkable turn. Izzy and Bill persuade the village priest to marry them, and they go off together to track down Izzy’s father and brother in the resistance. Izzy, dressed like a boy, and Bill share a romantic interlude which in hindsight could be considered their honeymoon before being captured and sent back to Bill’s former prison camp. 
Now the real story begins as Bill and Izzy must survive the hardships of the prison camp while keeping her sex a secret. The story is rich with detail as every action, no matter how small, can have fatal consequences. The couple must share their secret with a few loyal compatriots which lessens some danger while heightening other. Throughout the book the question is raised. “Who can you trust?” 
As the war is reaching a conclusion as both American and Russians advance on German forces, the story continues in the most graphic, heart-pounding section of all — the Long March of thousands of starving prisoners being forced from Czechoslovakia to Germany to serve as a shield against the allies. The horrors of war are made worse by harsh blizzards endured without proper clothes or food. Every step is a challenge with a likelihood of death at the side of the road. Occasionally an act of human kindness by a villager along the way reminds the reader that the evil of war is totally a question of the choices that men make. The result is to tighten the hold this story has on the reader’s heart.
The author of The Prisoner’s Wife is a trained journalist. She has brought a skill at capturing details with an empathy for the victims of war. The result is a powerful story you won’t soon forget.
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Izzy lives on a farm in Czechoslovakia with her mother and brother. Life on the farm has been very difficult since her father and brother left to join the resistance. Izzy feels that her life is drifting along with no friends or fun. The German Army in the area agrees to send some English prisoners of war to the farm to help out. One of the men who came to help was Bill, an English prisoner of war. When Izzy and Bill make eye contact, there are interested in each other and over time they fall in love. They decide to escape and get married. Izzy dresses like a man to help hide her identity but it doesn't take long before they are captured and sent to a work camp. Despite the difficulty, Izzy continues her male impersonation so that she and Bill can stay together. A group of prisoners in their group become friends and Bill tells that the situation and they help protect Izzy and help keep her secret. As the conditions in the camp continue to get worse and Bill begins to wonder if they will survive they begin hearing rumors that the American and Russian armies are getting close. To hide what they've done, the Germans who are left make the prisoners walk hundreds of miles in horrible conditions to stay ahead of the Russian Army. When Izzy and Billl are separated on the march, she knows that she'll never see him again. Will their love survive all of the punishment and pain that they've been through?

This is a different look at WWII and a unique story. The author did a tremendous amount of research to make sure that her story matches the history of the time. I loved both of the main characters and was on the edge of my seat hoping for their survival against the darkest odds.
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This was a fantastic historical fiction novel, based on oral stories passed down from survivors. The author is hoping the couple it's based off will read it and come forward to tell their real story. I would love to know what happened to them. Like any WWII novel, it's filled with heart-breaking descriptions of the cruelty of the Nazis. However, it was definitely worth reading. And, even if the couple in the story was completely fictional, this could be read for the truth of the death marches and life in the POW camps.
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I thought that this would be too historical of a read but the way the author was able to incorporate little tidbits of history was perfect.  I enjoyed the writing style with the main character not speaking English and  how she learned throughout the story.  A romance, historical facts, suspense, sadness and joy - this story covered it all.
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Fantastic story and fantastic writing! Although this is loosely based on a real life couple, told to the author from a third party, the author did an amazing job with her research of what POW must have endured.
Izzy and Bill meet while he's one of the prisoners working on her parent's farm. After a whirlwind, secretive romance, they wed without her mother's knowledge) and set out to find her father and brother. With Bill being an escaped prisoner, and Izzy dressed as a boy, they are eventually caught and brought to a POW camp. There, they meet my favorite characters... Ralph, Max, and Scotty, the fellow POW men who befriend them and guard the secret of Izzy's gender. 
It's a typical gut-wrenching depiction of the realities of war, the horrors of POW camps, and the Nazi destruction to humanity. But it's more than "typical." It's a story I know I will read again and highly recommend to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. Although I received this book through NetGalley, it's a book I'm purchasing for myself so I can read it again.
Reading this story during the COVIE-19 pandemic hits home even more. Stuck at home with plenty of food to eat, the freedom to walk outside, heat, air conditioning... is far from the true suffering of people during the war. 
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy of this amazing story!
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How does one find the strength to risk their lives for one another?

This based on a true account of World War II answers that question in many different ways. I will share my thoughts at the end.

Lizzy and her mother work on their family farm. Her father and brother have gone to fight the resistance. Lizzy feeling slighted of not doing her part, dreams of leaving the farm and joining the fight. Five years has passed since her father and brother have left and instead of discovering new things as a 15 year old, her world has narrowed down to this family farm. A prison of sorts of its own. The Third Reich has the prisoners work the family farm and an instant attraction happens between Lizzy and Bill. Lizzy finds a way to have Bill tutor her and the relationship grows. With the war going on and no end at sight, they take a chance on love. They marry secretly and escape together only to be recaptured. In order for Bill to protect Lizzy and stay together, Lizzy disguises herself as a young boy. Will their love conquer over hate?

The story is well written as you experience every smell, sight, sound and all around different emotions. You feel the anxiety of Lizzy being discovered not only by the Germans but also by the other inmates that have become desperate and cruel in their own despair. The friendships that were made to save Lizzy and the hope that it brings. This brings light and life to these perilous times. You also have a different perspective on cleanliness, hunger, and loyalty.

True love is experienced in suffering. You lay your life down for another. Lizzy and Bill's relationship gave hope to the other prisoners that were trusted with their secret. I may never be called to that kind of love but I can hope that I would see suffering as a way to love another in truth as Lizzy and Bill did. Their story captures what we all want but fail to obtain because we do not see suffering as a way to experience love. Love is not a feeling but an act. May we learn from those before us.

A Special Thank you to Berkley Publishing Group and Netgalley for the ARC and the opportunity to post an honest review
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Another gripping novel based on a true event. I am continually amazed at the creativity of historical fiction authors in fleshing out a shard of a story and making it into a full-fledged fascinating book. I enjoyed the different points of view in the book.
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Every time I think that I am getting tired of World War II historical fiction, a book like this comes along and makes me realize how many stories are left to be told. This is a much different book than others in the genre, with a unique plot. The characters are so incredibly emotionally compelling that I couldn't stop reading. I also thought the author shone with how well the minor characters were written. Frequently I feel like authors treat minor characters as afterthoughts, but these were vividly written and incorporated so well into the storyline.

I cannot wait to see what this author writes next! Thank you to the publisher and Netgalley for my free digital copy. As always, all opinions are my own.
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I'll let the book blurb speak for itself:

"In the dead of night, a Czech farm girl and a British soldier travel through the countryside. Izabela and prisoner of war Bill have secretly married and are on the run, with Izzy dressed as a man. The young husband and wife evade capture for as long as possible—until they are cornered by Nazi soldiers with tracking dogs.
Izzy's disguise works. The couple are assumed to be escaped British soldiers and transported to a POW camp. However, their ordeal has just begun, as they face appalling living conditions and the constant fear of Izzy's exposure. But in the midst of danger and deprivation comes hope, for the young couple are befriended by a small group of fellow prisoners. These men become their new family, willing to jeopardize their lives to save Izzy from being discovered and shot."

If you're looking for World War II historical fiction in the same vein as Cilka's Journey, this title is a read-alike to that emotional, harrowing read.  Having read Cilka's Journey and appreciating the powerful journey it rolled out in the story, I thought I would give this title a try.  While I wouldn't say I "enjoyed" the book, I was very much invested in the characters of the story as they struggled to keep courage and hope alive in their journey.  You see Izzy hit hard with reality as she transforms from a sheltered, starry-eyed farm girl into "Cousins", a mute POW who has to develop an iron will all while not being able to utter a word.  You see Bill, her husband, and all of the other prisoners of war privy of the secret dutifully carrying and shielding her secret even as they struggle to survive themselves.  The plot was solid, the atmosphere was vivid and descriptive, and the characters were intriguing.  I felt that the story lingered too long in certain areas, but it didn't take away from the overall rating I have for this book.

An emotional and harrowing story of the dark depths of the human heart in war, but also of the courage, selflessness, and hope of the human spirit as well.  Would recommend.  

I would like to thank NetGalley for an eARC of this title.
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It appears I am in the minority with this book but it fell short for me.From the description, I wanted to love this book since WW2 historical stories are one of my favorites.  I struggle when I do not enjoy a book when it is based on a true story. The book was just lacking for me. 

The book was written in first person as the voice of Izabela. Izabela doesn't play a big role in the story. It feels early on that she is flippant with Bill and how deadly things could turn for him if their attraction was noticed. The story is really more about how Bill and his fellow prisoners did whatever necessary to protect Izabel. 

As with other true life WW2 survivor accounts, I have found that some events feel almost unbelievable that they could happen in a time of war. 

Bill and Izzy's story of love is one that is truly touching and inspiring.
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This WWII historical fiction novel is based on the true story of a Czech girl and a British POW who fall in love, secretly get married, escape the Nazis only to be caught and imprisoned, all while she is posing as a young man. Sadly, the author cannot actually confirm the names of the real people who inspired the book, but she reaches out to anyone who can help tie up those ends in the epilogue.

To say that this was a nail biter is putting it mildly. There are so many near-disasters and so much suffering, but also there is love and friendship among the POWs. And for good or ill, it left me wanting more. If you enjoy reading WWII historical fiction, you won't go wrong with this one.

My thanks to Berkley/Penguin Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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The Prisoner’s Wife is a well-executed entry in the ‘Wife Genre’, as I refer to the group of historical novels that have dominated this last decade, all revolving around the spouse of a better known man, though this book is more original for focusing on the wife of an Everyman instead of a titan of industry, poet of the pen, or maestro of music.

In the summer of 1944, twenty-year-old Izabela – Izzy – is at home with her mother and brother on their farm in Czechoslovakia. The Germans have, per the rules of the Geneva Convention, put the enlisted PoWs in the area to work, and Izzy and her family are sent a set of British prisoners including Bill King, railway-clerk-turned-tank-gunner. Izzy is immediately intrigued by Bill, and by autumn they’ve married and unsuccessfully tried to flee the area, ending up in a German prison camp where Bill recruits the assistance of other British prisoners to conceal Izzy, presenting her to their captors as a “mute” and shellshocked soldier.

The writing in The Prisoner’s Wife is very smooth and accessible. It alternates between the first person PoV of Izzy and the third person PoV of Bill, both in the present tense, which adds to the looming sense of ‘what happens – do they survive?’ I will say that I did care about the answer to that question. Brookes includes a note about the story and her research (it’s based on a true story, but is more fictional than historical) and she does a good job of presenting her research naturally through Izzy’s observations and experiences. The fact that Izzy and Bill are captured only six months before the liberation of the camps means the suffering in the book is not prolonged (Bill spends a total of four years in captivity, but we don’t get more than a synopsis of the years pre-Izzy), and there’s no on-page torture in this book; only the wear and tear of hunger, labor, and bug infestations.

This book, for all its title with the emphasis on the heroine’s marital status, isn’t really much of a romance or a love story. I enjoyed the believable detail of Bill and Izzy’s summer of love (it has the feverish but never lewd sexiness of Merchant Ivory’s film adaptation of A Room With A View) but Brookes suggests that’s it’s the circumstances, not the quality, of their love, that makes it remarkable. Izzy and Bill fight about directions while fleeing the Germans, and Izzy, when she sees a photo of Bill’s parents, ponders “if I will still love him if he becomes overweight like his mother”. Once imprisoned, because Izzy is supposed to be a mute to hide her lack of English fluency, she and Bill virtually never speak to each other again, which is about two-thirds of the book. Obviously there’s no sex after their capture (a running theme amongst the prisoners is the unhappy effects of stress and strain on their erectile function), but neither is there any real emotional connection. Izzy and Bill don’t seem to take much solace in the mere existence of each other. If you want a World War Two story about a couple that does survive on each other’s love, read Paullina Simons’ The Bronze Horseman.

There’s a trio of soldiers who support Bill and Izzy throughout their imprisonment and who have actual stories (they’re a mix of Brits, Scots, Jewish, working class, and Oxford-educated) and personalities, and are never clustered together to act as comic relief based on their maleness. If anything, and herein lies a problem of the book, I didn’t see the point in their risking their lives for Izzy. She admits “I fully understand that it’s not only me in danger, but that I’ve put every man. . . at risk too.” If the situation were reversed, I cannot imagine being pleased at being asked to support someone else’s husband in a prison system, especially if that person, like Izzy, brought nothing of particular value to the group in terms of skill or knowledge. There’s almost a cruelty to it, as if one is taking on all the burden of marriage vows and none of the benefits.

Izzy is most impressive for how well she copes mentally rather than physically. She fully embraces her fake identity as a soldier, complete with history as Algernon Cousins, an “ostler” or horse-handler, and she uses that identity to guide her actions – “Cousins has spent so much time with horses that he seems to have taken on some of their qualities, their alert wariness, but also their patience, strength and endurance,” she thinks. “That’s who I’ll be tomorrow. The new me.” Bill is a decent guy for most of the book, but Brookes throws in a late reveal of something in his past that makes it clear she’s critiquing people of certain political affiliations in the contemporary United States. What’s perhaps most strange is that, while it comes down heavily as a hammer, she then moves on from it after about three pages. I was left scratching my head. . . and not from the descriptions of Izzy’s lice.

The reason for my borderline recommendation comes down to this: what I thought Brookes did well was avoid making huge mistakes. She didn’t make all the men Saints and Sinners, she didn’t write a book full of unpalatable prose, she didn’t write a really bad love story. All of which added up to a book that I found very easy to read. But that's not the stuff high grades are made of. However, until I read this book, I had no idea that the Geneva Convention exempted officers from labor during their imprisonment. A book that can tell me new things about a subject that the world is (rightfully so, I think) obsessed with after seventy-five years, is a book that gets a tip of my hat. Not everyone was a six foot four, blonde fighter pilot in the RAF during World War Two and I'm glad those who weren't are getting a little attention.

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The Prisoner's Wife is a heart-filled story of love, friendship and sacrifice during the Second World War, only made even more incredible by its basis in truth. Brookes keeps you on the edge of your seat, as the story follows Izzy and Bill, a couple falling in love in unlikely circumstances and facing unimaginable challenges. 

While I found the story hard to get into at first, I was quickly enthralled and kept reading in order to find out what happened. A truly remarkable story of a couple, their friends, and all of their courage and strength.
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Izabela, a Czech farm girl, falls for the British prisoner of war soldier tasked with working at her farm.  Together, they hatch a crazy plan to marry, disguise Isabela as a boy and escape through the countryside.  When the pair are captured, they do everything they can to maintain Izabela's disguise.

This book was hard to put down.  It was a very interesting and compelling story.  The only criticism I have is that the book needed an epilogue.  It is very frustrating to get so involved with characters and then have the story abruptly end.  Despite this, criticism, I enjoyed the story and would definitely read more from this author.  4 out of 5 stars.
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Incredible storytelling. I was captivated from the first chapter. I needed to know more.  I normally do not read books based about war, but the synopsis just grabbed me. I was so glad I decided to pick this up. 

The writer really took us in an incredible journey about life, risk and love. These characters really will grab you.
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During World War II, farm girl Izabela falls for British prisoner of war, Bill. Married in secret, they are captured while trying to evade the Nazis. Will Izzy be able to conceal her true identity even while being held as a POW?

"For Bill, Izzy was some kind of miracle, a bright flower growing out of concrete, unexpected and unimagined."

Inspired by true events, this was a heartfelt debut about the will to survive ... and the power of love! Even though this tale was harsh and heartbreaking at times, I was thoroughly fascinated by how Izzy was able to conceal her womanhood from an entire camp. It made my heart beat faster, and I felt like I was by their side every harrowing step of the way. This was an unforgettable tale about surviving the worst hardships while also maintaining hope.

I would highly recommend this book for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz (5 stars)!

Location: 1944-1945 Czechoslovakia and Poland

I received an advance copy of this book. All opinions are my own.
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This was a unique and unforgettable story!It's inspired by true events and it touched me!The story behind Izzy and Bill was heartbreaking!I was aching,swooning and feeling emotional over the characters through the story!

If you like historical books about war that brings out all the emotions this is a great read!
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Thanks NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for the ARC in exchange for my honest review!

"The Prisoner's Wife" by Maggie Brookes is a sad, remarkable romantic story, based on a true ww2 love story. Bill is a British POW who ends up on work detail at Izabela's farm in the Czechoslovakia countryside. From first glance, sparks ignite, but how can Izzy and Bill possibly make it work when the war rages on and the Russians are rapidly approaching? The question remains: can love really endure all things?

This book was so beautiful for a number of reasons, but the main one that I continued to think of is the resiliency of the human spirit. Throughout the camp, there are times when each character feels low or sad and the others are able to cheer them and encourage them. Even when things feel bleakest, the smallest amount of hope can be clung to and it's just enough to get through. 

Brookes clearly did her research throughout the book. I believed the running stories because so many details were genuine, even if exact names and details were not. There's so much to be said for an author who knows her characters and her location. These allowed the story to take on more of a real narrative than purely fiction. Knowing it's based on a true story helps, but can only take you so far.

I loved this book. It was emotional and gritty. There were times that I was uncomfortable, but it was necessary. I gave this book 5 stars and hope the real life ending was just as bittersweet as the fictional one.
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Set during WWII, Maggie Brookes’ new novel The Prisoner’s Wife follows a British soldier named Bill and a Czech girl named Izzy.  Bill is a POW who has been sent, along with several other prisoners, to labor at Izzy’s family’s farm. As soon as Bill and Izzy meet, sparks fly and they quickly fall in love.  Izzy is desperate to get away from life on the farm and arranges for her and Bill to secretly marry so that they can run away and be together.  Their honeymoon – and their freedom – is short-lived, however, when they are almost immediately captured by the Germans and sent to a POW camp.  To hide her identity while they were fleeing, Izzy had cut her hair short and donned men’s clothing, but keeping her identity and gender a secret in a POW camp is practically an impossible task.  Bill knows they need help and enlists some fellow prisoners to help keep their secret, and most importantly, to keep Izzy safe.  If she’s found now, Izzy will almost certainly be executed as a spy.

I’ve read a lot of WWII historical fiction in my day, but this one really got to me.  Bill and Izzy’s journey is so fraught with danger at every turn and it just had my heart in my throat the entire time I was reading.  The author paints such a vivid picture of the horrors of the POW camp – the brutality, the lack of proper rations, the unsanitary conditions and sickness, not to mention the complete lack of privacy.  Even just the act of trying to use the bathroom posed a threat to Izzy’s well being.  The author created such a tense and suspenseful environment that hardly a page went by when I wasn’t convinced that Izzy’s identity would be revealed at any moment.

I just adored Izzy and Bill too.  How can you not root for a young couple in love to outwit the Germans and survive?  I was rooting that a happy ending for them from the moment they met.  I especially loved Izzy, who not only wanted to get off that farm, but she specifically wanted to find and join up with her father and brother who were members of a resistance group.  I loved her spark and her strength and was sure that if anyone could survive their impossible situation, it was Izzy.

I also loved the group of prisoners that banded together to protect Izzy from the Germans.  I was just so moved by their immediate willingness to put themselves in harm’s way to save a complete stranger, especially when it would have been so much easier to just look out for themselves and not try to help.  This group becomes Izzy and Bill’s “found family” and I found myself rooting for them all to survive just as hard as I was for Izzy and Bill.

Inspired by true events, The Prisoner’s Wife is an unforgettable story of courage, resiliency, and survival.  It’s also a story about love and the lengths people will go to for those they care about.
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