Gavin F (gavluvsga) wrote in 50bookchallenge,
Gavin F

Book #36: The Hiding Place by Robert Shaw

Number of pages: 220

At the start of this book, two British airmen, fighting in World War II have landed in Germany. They have been saved from a lynching mob by a German civilian, the mentally unstable Hans Frick, who has kept them chained up in his cellar.

We are told however, that it is now 1952; the war has ended seven years ago, but Frick still hasn't released them, and they don't realise the war is over.

The two airmen spend their time imagining they are back in London, while gradually starting to form a bond with Frick.

I first expected Frick to be a very despisable character, but I found he became sympathetic quite quickly, particular after the writer gave him a back story; he is said to be under the thump of a character called Neusel (I think he was supposed to be the landlord), and the book shows that he is concerned about the welfare of his prisoners, although he also constantly returns home hoping they haven't escaped. This extends at one point to escaping from a doctor when he is told that he needs medical assistance, just so he can go back home and feed the airmen, whom he has told no one else about.

I thought initially that this book would be all about people getting Stockholm Syndrome, but after a first section of the book that contained a lot of discussion of German politics...

[Spoiler (click to open)]

Frick releases his prisoners, believing that they will be caught, and sneaks them out of the house; the second part is all about their travels across Germany, and their eventual return to England. My favourite aspect of this was that they took the fact that everyone seemed so happy as a sign that Germany had won the war.

I had some idea how it might end as I reached the last few chapters, but it wasn't something I would have predicted from the start. Overall, I found this book very readable and the three main characters were very engaging.

Next book: Epitaph for a Spy (Eric Ambler)
Tags: drama, non-genre fiction, period fiction (20th century), politics

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