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Women in History

Code Name Edelweiss Shows Us How Women Can Shape History

Code Name Edelweiss

by Stephanie Landsem

"If not me, then who? If not now, then when?"

Code Name: Edelweiss by Stephanie Landsem is historical fiction set in 1933 Los Angeles during the rise of Nazi Germany. It follows Liesl Weiss, a child of first-generation German immigrants and a single mother who is trying to figure out a way to make ends meet. A long-time fixture of MGM, she is shocked to lose her job and is now desperate to find work. So when Leon Lewis offers her a position for $30 a week, she can hardly believe it. The catch is she will have to go undercover to work for an organization dedicated to growing the reach of the Third Reich. With growing Anti-Semitic sentiments in America, Liesl, Lewis, and the mysterious Agent 13 set out to prove that not only has Nazism taken root in America, but they also plan to take over the world's best propaganda machine: Hollywood. Based on a true story, while the book had some problems (it smacks of White Saviorism), I found it to be a poignant and timely read. Liesl's opinion is heavily filtered through the lens of her Christian religious beliefs. Unfortunately, I have yet to research the real Liesl Weiss, so I cannot say whether or not the portrayal is accurate. Still, I think it provided the reader with insights into the hypocrisy of the National Socialist party. The novel does itself a disserve by labeling itself a thriller. It was a solid work of historical fiction but didn't really have me on the edge of my seat. The pacing starts off slowly but builds nicely. While primarily plot-driven, some elements feel like a character study. Liesl starts the novel almost painfully naive with virtually no grit. Life is happening to her rather than her being an active participant. However, the reader can watch her reckon with the present reality and difficult realizations. Agent 13 almost felt like an accessory at times. He could have stood to be more fleshed out. And Lewis, the Jewish lawyer with arguably the most at stake, is mainly treated as a vehicle to tell Liesl's story. Given that he was the operation's mastermind, he should have had greater visibility. However, the thing the book does best is the part I struggled with the most. While I certainly do not have sympathy for Nazis, Landsem did a good job illustrating why the Nazis were able to manipulate and influence so many to hatred and bigotry. I think the author walked the fine line between excuse and reasoning quite well. The audiobook I received, courtesy of NetGalley and Dreamscape Media, was well-produced. The narration was strong -- conveying deep feelings on the parts of all the characters. Cady Zuckerman does a pleasing German accent (at least to my ear). Neil Hellegers voice had just the right about of gravel for a somewhat cantankerous and disillusioned spy. This is a Christian novel, but it doesn't feel preachy or so religion specific that those not of the faith wouldn't enjoy it. The book's overall feeling is one of action versus passivity—a reminder that we must all stand against hate in its many forms. This book would be a satisfying choice for anyone interested in WWII history who enjoys witnessing the slow unfurling of a story and appreciates philosophical questions about ethics, morality, and spirituality.

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