August, 1938. Paris is a city living on its nerves and the threat of war hangs heavy as a distant thunderstorm on a summer’s day.
British actress, Clara Vine, is in Paris to film her latest movie, having left Berlin under a cloud. Joseph Goebbels has become increasingly suspicious that Clara has been mingling in Berlin society and passing snippets of information to her contacts in the British Embassy. It would have been absurd, if it hadn’t also been true…
With war becoming increasingly likely, Clara is approached by an undercover British operative, Guy Hamilton, who asks her to perform a task for her country: to befriend Eva Braun, Hitler’s girlfriend, and to pass on any information she can gather.
Clara knows that to undertake this task is to put herself back in danger. But she also knows that soon she may have to do everything in her power to protect her country…
There is a lot happening in A War of the Flowers but the mystery surrounding Ada’s death gets completely lost amongst it all, making it seem superfluous. The investigation is mostly run by Clara’s journalist friend, Rupert, but it is far too similar to the murder plot in The Winter Garden and I lost interest in it early on. For me, the real highlight in these books is how Thynne portrays the everyday lives of the Germans who are living through this period, particularly the women, and how Hitler’s policies affect them. Not everyone is enamoured with Herr Hitler but it is safer to keep a low profile and do as you are told.
The Winter Garden focused on the topic of marriage and the special schools established to ensure young German women became domestic goddesses, so it is inevitable the main focus in A War of Flowers would be on motherhood. While Hitler is busy dismantling female rights, women are being encouraged to have multiple children and are forced to attend classes on how to raise them for the Reich. As always there are dark undercurrents as teachers are encouraged to weed out children who are ‘not quite right’ as there is no place for ‘mistakes’ in the new Germany.
I’m hoping there are no extraneous murder plots in the fourth book as they are definitely not needed to keep the plot interesting, there is enough going on with the approaching war and the growing state of fear in Berlin. I’m also getting a little tired of the endless paragraphs dealing with Clara’s walks and the oft repeated passages on what processes she goes through in an attempt to discover whether she is being tailed or not. Thynne makes some great observations on German society and I’m certainly learning a lot about what women had to endure in particular so she should stick to what she does best. I would also like to see Clara becoming more active in her spying though as she still seems a little too passive to me, and gets spoon fed the information she needs rather too much.
I assumed A War of Flowers was going to be the final instalment of the Clara Vine series since the author had previously referred to the books as being part of a trilogy, however it seems she’s changed her mind and Clara’s adventures will continue.