The Woman Who Risked Everything, by Ellie Midwood

Laura Bloomfield

A tense and threatening novel.
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Immediately the tone of The Woman Who Risked Everything is introduced as one that is tense and threatening. The Prologue takes the reader to a point in the future, demonstrating how the novel will escalate. The tension in this small section is built effectively as our protagonist, Margot, hears strong knocking on her door from an SS officer. In the moment, she spills burning coffee on herself, reinforcing that there is the threat of violence coming from all sides. It’s a reminder that safety is limited throughout this book.

The Woman Who Risked Everything is a novel that tracks the gradual stripping of Jewish people’s rights under Hitler’s rule. The story opens in 1935- four years before World War Two- which is a dangerous time for Margot and her husband, Jochen, who is Jewish. Despite being baptised as a Protestant, because his parents are Jewish, Jochen is still discriminated against by the Nazi Party. From the beginning, Margot and Jochen’s hardships are visible as Jochen is not allowed to work under new laws, causing them to struggle with money. As the novel progresses, it only gets harder.

Margot is a good protagonist. The reader empathises a lot with her, and her thoughts are shown to us throughout the novel in various ways. Not only is Margot the focaliser, and titular character, of The Woman Who Risked Everything, so her every move is followed closely, there are also detailed passages about her emotions. Her worries, fear for Jochen, guilt, and thoughts on the unfairness she and Jochen experience are examined and presented well. It is lovely to witness how she stands by her husband. Her and Jochen’s relationship is written very well and is the driving force of the novel.

Not only is the protagonist developed well; the secondary characters are too. The wide range of other characters flesh out the novel, such as Margot’s father, Karl, and his mistress, Anastasia. They are not anti-semitic and are caring towards Margot and Jochen- something the couple are having difficulty finding in their lives. Anastasia can relate to Jochen, having faced persecution in her past, furthering her desire to protect the couple as much as she can. For example, she helps Jochen find a job. The secondary characters help the novel present polarising characters. For example, Margot’s mother, Maria, disagrees with Margot’s marriage and wants her to divorce Jochen due to her discrimination. She is a clear opposite to Anastasia, who is nothing but supportive. Gertrud, Margot’s sister, is the polar opposite of Margot as she has married an SS officer, Kurt. By having a wide range of characters, Midwood is able to represent the novel’s time period well as discrimination was very present during Hitler’s ruling.

Moments of hope and kindness and interjected during the novel. They add some optimism into the book, despite the awful events depicted in the novel. These moments are even added to the climatic ending. All of the tension that has been building up during the novel comes to a head in a satisfying way. The mixture of feelings and emotions increase the events’ stakes as the effected people can be so clearly seen.

Overall, The Woman Who Risked Everything is an interesting and quick-paced novel. Readers will want to follow Margot and Jochen through these difficult years in order to see how they are affected and what happens to them.

The Woman Who Risked Everything, by Ellie Midwood is out now and published by Bookouture.