Book Review: The Winter Orphans by Kristin Beck

Posted September 14, 2022 by WendyW in Book Review, bookblogger / 42 Comments

The Winter Orphans
One StarOne StarOne StarOne StarHalf a Star

by Kristin Beck
Publication Date September 6, 2022
Published by Penguin
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Genres: Fiction / Historical / World War II, Historical
Pages: 336
Format: ARC

***I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.***

A poignant and ultimately triumphant novel based on the incredible true story of children who braved the formidable danger of guarded, wintry mountain passes in France to escape the Nazis, from the acclaimed author of Courage, My Love.

Southern France, 1942

In a remote corner of France, Jewish refugee Ella Rosenthal has finally found a safe haven. It has been three years since she and her little sister, Hanni, left their parents to flee Nazi Germany, and they have been pursued and adrift in the chaos of war ever since. Now, they shelter among one hundred other young refugees in a derelict castle overseen by the Swiss Red Cross.

Swiss volunteers Rösli Näf and Anne-Marie Piguet uphold a common mission: to protect children in peril. Rösli, a stubborn and resourceful nurse, directs the colony of Château de la Hille, and has created a thriving community against all odds. Anne-Marie, raised by Swiss foresters, becomes both caretaker and friend to the children, and she vows to do whatever is necessary to keep them safe.

However, when Germany invades southern France, safeguarding Jewish refugees becomes impossible. Château de la Hille faces unrelenting danger, and Rösli and Anne-Marie realize that the only way to protect the eldest of their charges is to smuggle them out of France. Relying on Rösli's fierce will and Anne-Marie's knowledge of secret mountain paths, they plot escape routes through vast Nazi-occupied territory to the distant border. Amid staggering risk, Ella and Hanni embark on a journey that, if successful, could change the course of their lives and grant them a future.

The Winter Orphans by Kristin Beck is a historical fiction book that takes place mostly in France during WWII.   It’s about a woman who works for the Swiss Red Cross and her determination to save as many children refugees as possible from the Germans.  All based on a true story of courage and determination.

Swiss volunteers Rösli Näf and Anne-Marie Piguet both work to protect the children refugees, whose parents have had to go to war, or worse.  Rösli is a tough, no-nonsense former nurse who runs the colony of Château de la Hille and has built a thriving home for the children.  They grow fresh food and they work hard with chores, but there is also time to play and grow and learn.  She’s proud of the Château and keeping the children safe as the threat of war increased in France.  Anne-Marie is the daughter of a forester and knows the local forest and trails better than most.  

Elle is one of the older children at the camp.  She vowed to keep her little sister, Hanni safe when they left Nazi Germany and their parents in search of safety.  They found the Château de la Hille, where they will be kept safe until the war is over.  At least that is what they thought.  

First, I appreciated that this is NOT a dual timeline WWII story.  I enjoyed that the book is set in chronological order.  There are three POVs in the book, and that kept the book moving along it was nice to see how the action unfolded through the different POVs, and how the events affected each character so differently.  

The absolute courage and perseverance of these characters were amazing.  Rösli is one tough woman, and although she doesn’t show much emotion, especially towards the children, she demonstrates her love for them by how fiercely she fights for them.  Ella is also a very courageous young woman.  Her determination to protect her younger sister is admirable.  Anne Marie’s knowledge of the woods and her caring personality helped with the escape.  

As the book was in chronological order, I felt like I was living the story with the characters and the fear and suspense as they faced all sorts of trouble.  

I highly recommend The Winter Orphans to anyone who enjoys historical fiction. I received a complimentary copy of this book.  The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

About Kristin Beck

Kristin Beck first learned about World War II from her grandmother, who served as a Canadian army nurse, fell in love with an American soldier in Belgium, and married him shortly after VE Day. Kristin thus grew up hearing stories about the war, and has been captivated by the often unsung roles of women in history ever since. A former teacher, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Washington and a Master’s in Teaching from Western Washington University. Kristin lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and children.

Have you read The Winter Orphans? Do you want to?

42 responses to “Book Review: The Winter Orphans by Kristin Beck

  1. The premise of this story sounds similar to The Women of Chateau LaFayette – again a few women who take over a chateau in France to house and protect children. An engrossing story if you haven’t read it yet – save it for the next time you’re in the mood for WWII historical. 🙂
    Great review, again

  2. I get a bit nervous about historical fiction set in war time as I don’t like to read overly emotional stuff. I have been reading more of these books though through my Blog Tours and am getting through them without crying! I like a book that is chronological and like you say you feel more involved with the characters that way.

    Have a great week!

    Emily @ Budget Tales Book Blog

  3. I like that when historical fictions take us back to time period and closer to the reality of the past. Great review, Wendy! I can’t wait to start this.

  4. It seems like to do write historicals with dual timelines and I’m not a huge fan of that either. I like sticking with one timeline. Sounds like a great read!

  5. I am a big historical reader yes, but this one seem maybe a bit too emotional? Lovely cover though. Agh I know myself, I am going to end up taking a look for sure!

    Hope you are looking forward to the weekend Wendy!

  6. Sounds wonderful Wendy. And I completely agree on not having a dual timeline being a plus. Nothing wrong with them but they are being overdone. Lovely review🙂🙂

    • Thank you, Kristi! I like historical fiction but can’t read too much of it in a row. I need my contemporary and romcom breaks!