Things We Didn’t Say
by Amy Lynn Green
Things We Didn’t Say is an impressive debut novel. (I was completely taken aback to discover that it was Green’s first book! It reads like a well-seasoned author.) Full of heart, passion and a little bit of humour, this book is a thoughtful exploration of patriotism, prejudice, and humanity.
About: It’s 1944. Linguistic student, Johanna Berglund, has reluctantly accepted a translator position at a camp for German POWs. As she interacts with the prisoners, translating conversations and censoring their letters home to Germany, she begins to see these men as more than just enemies. But advocating for the soldiers’ better treatment leaves townspeople wondering whose side she’s on. Most patriot citizens want nothing to do with the Germans labouring in the camp, or with those who work there. As the lines between compassion and treason become blurred, Johanna must decide where her heart truly lies.
This post contains affiliate links; as an Amazon associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
Things We Didn’t Say is an epistolary — meaning that it is entirely composed of letters, telegrams, and newspaper clippings. This style of writing never appealed to me in the past, but Amy Lynn Green has changed my opinion!
The novel starts out with a bang. Our main character, Johanna, is charged with treason and has compiled the following collection of letters to act as her defence. Unlike some of the epistolary novels I’ve read, the correspondence between characters feels natural. There’s no forced dialogue or awkward cramming of information to fill plotholes. The story flows seamlessly from one letter to another and it’s apparent that the book has been well mapped out.
As a character, Johanna is outspoken and headstrong. Her plucky nature leaps across the page and is clearly demonstrated in each of her letters and responses. But she also has the sort of character flaws that make her feel like more than just a romanticized heroine. There was depth, growth, and a worthwhile character arc here.
The setting was also a fascinating exploration of what was (to me) a little known historical fact about WWII. I had no idea there were German POW camps in the United States. This made for a unique and refreshing take on historical novels set during this time period. The hometown feel and everyday life aspect of this book added to that.
Finally, I enjoyed that the author tackled some heavier and much-needed subjects. These discussions were sprinkled throughout the novel in a way that evoked questions and left you thinking. While some aspects of this didn’t feel entirely authentic to the era, I appreciated that they were included nonetheless. These discussions on prejudice, humanity, and compassion are a much-needed part of today’s books.
For those who enjoy historical fiction, I definitely recommend Things We Didn’t Say.
**Book has been provided courtesy of Baker Publishing Group
and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc. All opinions expressed are my own.