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Reviewed by Darryl Greer for Readers' Favorite
According to author Karen Batshaw’s note at the end of Hidden In Plain Sight, during the World War II Nazi occupation of Greece, 80% of Greek industry and 90% of ports, roads, railways and bridges were destroyed, 25% of all forests were decimated and over 1,000 villages were burned to the ground; 40,000 people died of starvation in Athens alone. Greece has the sad distinction of being home to the largest percentage of Jews annihilated in Europe. Around 87% of Greek Jews were murdered; Salonika lost 97% of its Greek Jews. Karen Batshaw has set her novel against this background. Anna, a vibrant young Sephardic Jewess from Salonika who is qualified as a doctor, is sent by her father to close friends, a Greek Orthodox family in Athens, in an endeavor to keep her from harm. As the book’s title suggests, she is hidden by posing as a nurse, pretending to be a Greek Orthodox Christian, attending services, wearing a crucifix and generally giving all outward appearances of being of the Christian faith. While living with this family, Anna falls in love with a member of the household, Alexander, also a doctor. Working together as doctor and nurse, they tend the sick and wounded, but one day the home has an invasion of its own when a Nazi officer decides to take it over. He ‘magnanimously’ allows the family to stay, but Anna is constantly on edge in case her real identity is let slip to this visitor from hell. Threaded throughout the narrative, we are taken to events in the year 1963 involving Anna’s daughter, Suzanne, a charming, talkative 19-year-old from America on a holiday in Greece. When Suzanne injures her foot, there is a chance meeting at a local hospital which triggers an extraordinary chain of events.
Hidden In Plain Sight is a fascinating tale, guaranteed to enthrall as well as shock. The world has had over seven decades to learn every intricate, disturbing detail of the Holocaust, yet here is a story, set in a country that is not usually the focus of Nazi atrocities against the Jews, which shines a spotlight on one particular household and the devastation it suffers at the hands of just one Nazi officer. Yet, parallel with each day’s abominations, a beautiful love story is gathering momentum. From the powerful opening to the touching denouement, Karen Batshaw takes her reader on a journey that will simultaneously shock, disturb, amaze and warm the heart. Not an easy feat. Hidden In Plain Sight is an incredible tale of remarkable heroism in the face of horrors of Kafkaesque proportions. The research required for the background historical setting must have been exhaustive. I usually read, write and review thrillers, but this romantic novel gripped me throughout. Look out for the movie — this story would make a riveting film.