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August 4, 2023

The Keeper of Hidden Books by Madeline Martin ~ A Review

by Susan Roberts

A heartwarming story about the power of books to bring us together, inspired by the true story of the underground library in WWII Warsaw.

Amazon affiliate links are used on this site. A free book was provided for an honest review.

book cover of historical fiction novel The Keeper of Hidden Books by Madeline Martin
August 2023; Hanover Square Press; 978-1335005779
audio, ebook, print (416 pages); historical fiction

This beautifully written and well-researched book is based on a true story in Warsaw during World War II. It's the story of love and friendship, fear and danger but most importantly it's a story about the power of books.

Zofia is in school and her life is consumed with two constants - the books that she reads and her best friend Janina.  As the Germans come into power in Poland, she and her friends start a book club and read books banned by the Nazis.  When the Germans took over Warsaw, they also took over the library where Zofia and her friend worked,  They insisted that all banned books be removed from the library and destroyed, replacing them with books in German about the Germans.  The young friends are appalled at the books that have been banned and devise a way to keep them hidden in a partially destroyed warehouse.  They also secretly loan out books from the warehouse to people who want to read them.  When Janina and her family are sent to the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw, Zofia still tries to get books to her and she hides them and loans them to other people in the Ghetto.  As the Nazis tighten their hold on the Ghetto, it becomes impossible for Zofia to get in and she has to hope that her friend is ok.  No matter what was going on in Warsaw, Zofia and her friends worked diligently to keep Polish history and Polish books alive.

This beautifully written book is about the ultimate power that books and knowledge hold in our lives.  The Germans banned any books they felt didn't show them as the leaders of the world.  Book banning is again becoming prevalent in our world and people need to learn from the past the power that results from the freedom to read whatever book you want to.  

Be sure to read the Author's Notes at the end of the book to find out more about the true story and some of the people that this book is based on. I read a lot of WWII fiction but this is the first time I've read about people hiding banned books in Warsaw.  The people who did this were resilient and knew that the written word had power that needed to be protected.

Susan Roberts grew up in Michigan but loves the laid-back life at her home in the Piedmont area of North Carolina where she is two hours from the beach to the east and the mountains in the west.  She reads almost anything but her favorite genres are Southern Fiction and Historical Fiction.   

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