Resistance Women [Book Review]

June 28, 2019

Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini

Resistance Women by Jennifer Chiaverini (cover) Image: two women walking away from the camera across an empty plaza

Genre/Categories/Setting: Historical Fiction, Pre WW11, WW11, Resistance, Jewish, Germany

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.

My Summary:

Mildred Fish, an American College graduate, meets the love of her life, Arvid Harnack. After they fall in love, they marry and make their home in Arvid’s homeland of Germany. Mildred and Arvid thrive there, forming new friendships, and enjoying the intellectual and artistic offerings of 1930s Berlin. As Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party become more popular and powerful, Mildred and Arvid and their friends are compelled to resist. For years, Mildred and Arvid and their cohorts risk their lives to gather intelligence to bring down the Third Reich from within. Sadly, their sincere efforts don’t result in the help they desired or envisioned. This is a story of everyday people who, while they should be enjoying their carefree youth, give their best efforts to fighting evil and saving their country.

My Thoughts:

Jennifer Chiaverini puts history back into historical fiction!

Pacing: Most of Resistance Women is focused on prewar Germany. Many WW11 books drop the reader right into the middle of the war action and atrocities. In contrast, Jennifer Chiaverini devotes approximately 60% of the story tracing the fascinating buildup to WW11. For the most part, this is a quiet story that focuses on the lives of everyday, patriotic, sincere, and likable people and the difficult circumstances in which they find themselves. Although Resistance Women is not a page-turner, the suffering, quiet desperation, and stealthy efforts of the characters are engaging. As the conspirators continue to live their lives as best they can, they quietly find others who share their concern and are also willing to take risks. These risks do not produce many rewards, and as Mildred and her friends suffer dire consequences, the pace of the story quickens.

Writing: Resistance Women is well-researched and thoughtfully written, and I can picture the author writing the story with all of her notecards spread out around her. In this 600 page story, there’s a significant amount of time devoted to the build-up of the war. If the focus on this time in history interests you, you will appreciate the read. The author includes a great deal of “reporting” of the events, a lot of “telling” and minimal “showing.” It’s like reading a history book where we hear about the events but we do not experience them alongside the character. So even though it’s easy reading, the writing isn’t as engaging or page turning as some other historical fiction books that I’ve read over the past years. Nevertheless, I enjoyed Resistance Women because the prewar history and details about the lives of real people fascinate me. If there had been more specific details about the characters’ activities (more intrigue), I would have bumped this up to a full five stars. In summary, this is a “quiet” story that’s heavily character driven with a great deal of emphasis on the build-up to the war.

Characters: Resistance Women shares the experiences of three courageous souls and their resistance efforts: Mildred (an American married to a German man), Greta, and Sara. These three unforgettable and everyday women risk their lives to fight evil. It is especially interesting to read about the American, Mildred, and her commitment to the resistance movement.  (trigger warning: disturbing details in the following article) Mildred is a fascinating character to me because she is an American who grew to love her husband’s homeland and risked her life to fight against the Nazis. (Although there are some gruesome details in the article, the book doesn’t include the most disturbing details.) There is a memorial honoring Mildred in Madison, Wisconsin (USA). In Wisconsin schools, Sept. 16 is celebrated as Mildred Harnack Day. It’s her birthday.

Mildred Harnack Memorial

On Oct. 31, a monument to Harnack was placed in Marshall Park. Image Source.

An additional note of historical interest is that Mildred Harnack was married to the cousin of the famous theologian, Detrich Bonhoeffer who is mentioned at the beginning of the book. Some of you may recognize the name. This is a book recommendation about Bonhoeffer’s life and his part in the resistance movement.

Themes: Thoughtful themes include hope, friendship, bravery, courage, risk-taking, patriotism, and everyday people doing extraordinary things in the most impossible and difficult circumstances. These themes would contribute to a great book club discussion.

Recommended: Jennifer Chiaverini puts the history into historical fiction! If you are ever frustrated by historical fiction that reads like women’s fiction in a historical setting, you can be assured that there’s an abundance of history in Resistance Women. I recommend this story for readers who love a quieter, character-driven story with lots of historical detail, for those who might be interested in the prewar buildup in Germany, and for fans of Jennifer Chiaverini (and, of course, histfic). This story would provide thoughtful discussion topics for a book club.

My Rating:  4 Stars


Resistance Women

Resistance Women Information

Meet the Author, Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaverini

Jennifer Chiaverini is the New York Times bestselling author of FATES AND TRAITORS, MRS. LINCOLN’S DRESSMAKER, MRS. LINCOLN’S RIVAL, THE SPYMISTRESS, MRS. GRANT AND MADAME JULE, and other acclaimed historical novels. She also wrote the beloved Elm Creek Quilts series, as well as six collections of quilt patterns inspired by her books. A graduate of the University of Notre Dame and the University of Chicago, she lives with her husband and two sons in Madison, Wisconsin. About her historical fiction, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel writes, “In addition to simply being fascinating stories, these novels go a long way in capturing the texture of life for women, rich and poor, black and white, in those perilous years.”


Have you read any other titles by Jennifer Chiaverini?

Is Resistance Women on your TBR or have you read it?

Happy Reading Book Buddies!

“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke

“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes

“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text


Summer’s ONE “Must-Read” Book 2021 (collaboration post with 20 bloggers)

Let’s Get Social!

Thank you for visiting and reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along (see subscribe or follow option), promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.

Find me at:

***Blogs posts may contain affiliate links. This means that at no extra cost to you, I can earn a small percentage of your purchase price.

Unless explicitly stated that they are free, all books that I review have been purchased by me or borrowed from the library.

Book Cover and author photo are credited to Amazon or an author’s (or publisher’s) website.


35 thoughts on “Resistance Women [Book Review]

    • It’s definitely history intensive and not a typical page turner spy story….. but the history of the build up is fascinating! Thanks so much for stopping in and commenting!


  1. Pingback: June Reading Wrap Up | Reading Ladies

  2. Pingback: Mid Year Reading Check In: Best Reads | Reading Ladies

  3. I love historical fiction and I actually don’t mind a book that’s a bit heavy on the facts, so I’d probably enjoy this one. #abitofeverything

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s a hefty read at almost 600 pages…..and it’s character driven so not a page turner. It took me some time to read it so maybe your instincts were right! My request for an arc was declined!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ah… yes… I remember seeing the page count and thinking… OY! I don’t know why the publisher approached me about this one – it just came out of the blue. But… on second thought – an American Jew living in Israel reading historical fiction (and a great deal surrounding WWI and WWII), yeah, it should have been my thing.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. This is the kind of book that very much appeals to me, I like to focus on ordinary people and also love reading about parts if history that aren’t routinely covered in books.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I just stumbled on your site (really awesome!) and followed you on Goodreads. Your review of Resistance Women is just awesome and I’m with you 100% in your rating and review. I look forward to perusing your reads and reviews from the last few years to add new books to my list! Sher

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Pingback: Seven Best Reads of Summer | Reading Ladies

  7. Pingback: Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings: #NonficNov | Reading Ladies

  8. Pingback: Bookish Themed Hanukkah: Fifth Candle: Five-Day Work Week #eightcandlebooktag | Reading Ladies

  9. Pingback: Most Memorable Reads of 2019 | Reading Ladies

  10. Pingback: Women’s History Month 2020: 10 Inspirational Reads | Reading Ladies

  11. Pingback: #6Degrees of Separation: From Stasiland to… | Reading Ladies

  12. Pingback: Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings: #NonficNov 2020 | Reading Ladies

  13. Pingback: International Holocaust Remembrance Day 2021 | Reading Ladies

  14. Pingback: The Invisible Woman [Book Review] | Reading Ladies

  15. Pingback: Resistance Women [Book Review] #ThrowBackThursday | Reading Ladies

  16. The interwar years in Germany is very interesting. It puts context on how Hitler and the Nazi party were able to rise to power. I love historical fiction, particularly ones that are well-researched. I’ll be adding this to my very long TBR list. You are becoming my go-to girl for WW2 historical novels LOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. This sounds like a wonderful and powerful story. I have cut back a bit on historical fiction because I was reading so much of it, but I am back at it and this sounds like a good one. I agree, Carol, there are few books about the build up to WWII in historical fiction. I have Jennifer Chiaverini’s most recent book on audio to listen to, but am going to add this one to my TBR. Great review Carol.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Pingback: Fiction/Nonfiction Book Pairings: #NonficNov 2021 | Reading Ladies

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.