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Was There a German Resistance? Read the Novel, The Ragged Edge of Night

WWII historical fiction by Olivia Hawker

small church in German countryside in fall
small church in German countryside in fall

For years, I've wondered why the German people didn't resist Hitler. Why wouldn't the common decency of average people compel them to fight back? They KNEW what was happening, or at least had suspicions. Surely the entire population didn't agree with the Nazi directives?

I finally got an answer to that question by reading Olivia Hawker's historical fiction, The Ragged Edge of Night. This novel provides a different perspective of resistance to Hitler because it looks at it from the viewpoint of a German citizen.

Enter Anton Starzmann

Anton Starzmann is a good man, a Catholic Friar who teaches music to disabled children in Stuttgart. He's happy and fulfilled, serving the Lord with his talent ... until the Nazis and the war change everything.

When Anton's religious order is shut down by the regime, Anton is devastated. His innate need to perform good works still drives him, though, so he takes desperate action. He answers a newspaper advertisement placed by Elisabeth Herter, a young widow in a small town with three young children. The woman has advertised for a husband - in name only - to help her support her family and raise her fatherless children.

Anton believes the opportunity to be one that would allow him to continue teaching children and doing good works, even though he is no longer affiliated with a religious order.

Elisabeth and Anton agree to marry, determined to persevere in the midst of war and pain.

Music and messages in The Ragged Edge of Night

Twice in my lifetime, I have heard music so rich and so lovely that it infiltrated my skin and vibrated my heart. Tears rolled down my cheeks as unstoppable as raindrops in a thunderstorm as I listened. Both times were in a church sanctuary, once listening to a jazz saxophone rendition of "How Great Thou Art" by musician Jamie Aebersold. The second time was in the sanctuary of St. James United Methodist Church in Danville, Illinois, where a gifted pianist named Larry O'Neal played a medley of hymns, linking familiar tunes with intricate counter melodies and rich harmonies.

Maybe my love of music made me more prone to appreciate Olivia Hawker's novel, The Ragged Edge of Night, a story filled with the joy and sustenance that music can bring. Organ music, band music, and the mellifluous, evocative ringing of church bells are the underlying accompaniment of the novel.

Anton finds a way to assist the Red Orchestra, a group intent on assassinating Hiter, he risks his life - and the lives of the family he's grown to love - to stop what he knows is wrong. With his good friend, Father Emil, Anton embarks on a far more dangerous mission than just carrying messages for the Red Orchestra.

Relationships in times of war

The Ragged Edge of Night explores the difficulty of being a step-parent, of building relationships with orphaned children, of family dynamics, and of moving ahead when one path is closed to you.

I got to travel vicariously to a small, overlooked village in Germany during World War II. I was treated to a beautiful story, made even more thrilling when I learned that this story is based on the life of the author's grandfather, a man who actually did what's described in the novel.

I was enchanted and moved by the book, published in 2018.

Another debate. Another article.

The end of the book has an author's note that explains WHY she decided to write her grandfather-in-law's story. Hawker's explanation involves her political viewpoints, and many of her readers were vicious in their response to her statement.

But that's another article, another debate, another day.

Don't miss The Ragged Edge of Night if you're interested in World War II history, the psychology of resistance, the problem of the population during wartime, and average-people heroes.

Olivia Hawker aka Libby Hawker

Olivia Hawker started publishing lighter-weight fiction under the name Libby Hawker. These books focus on romance and adventure, and she often writes novels of ancient Egypt.

As she aged and her writing matured, she developed a deeper style of historical fiction.

I intend to read more of her work because I was moved by The Ragged Edge of Night.


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David Houser
David Houser
Jul 16, 2023


Your review of " The Ragged Edge of Night" has piqued my interest. I too am in wonder of the German population and their stance against Nazism. Also your appreciation of the music you heard in church orchestras appealed to my interests. I immediately ordered the book. Thank you for not including any spoiler alerts. - David

Melissa Gouty
Melissa Gouty
Jul 17, 2023
Replying to

Thank you for reading this, David! I hope you enjoy the book as much as I did.

A year or two ago I listened to a book I really liked called One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow. Turns out that it was another Olivia Hawker book, Hope to review that as well (after I reread) in the upcoming months.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate it when someone takes the time to read one of my pieces and respond to it. It means a lot. Thank you! Let me know how you felt about the book.

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