Among fash­ion­able Nazis be­fore the war

Black Roses

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Books - Alan Gold

By Jane Thynne Si­mon & Schus­ter, 471pp, $24.99

AF­TER the Nazi takeover of Ger­many in 1933, haute couture was much on the minds of Hitler, Goebbels and oth­ers in the lead­er­ship, a strange fact that cre­ates a fas­ci­nat­ing sub­ject for Jane Thynne’s Black Roses.

The novel fic­tion­alises real events in the in­ter-war years, cen­tred on Hitler or­der­ing the cre­ation of a Ger­man fash­ion in­dus­try — cater­ing for proper Nazi wom­an­hood — as a way of break­ing the global dom­i­nance of de­gen­er­ate French in­flu­ence and de­sign.

Thynne has delved into the lit­tle-known back­ground of this plan and writ­ten a fas­ci­nat­ing and ab­sorb­ing nar­ra­tive drawn on the land­scape of a world de­scend­ing into sav­agery. Her novel is a bril­liant re-cre­ation of the early days of the Third Re­ich, pre­sented to the world as so­phis­ti­cated and cul­tured, yet built on a sub­struc­ture of ha­tred, vi­o­lence and the degra­da­tion of mi­nori­ties.

De­spite the grow­ing con­cerns in Bri­tain about the Nazis, Clara Vine, a Bri­tish ac­tress of Ger­man an­ces­try, trav­els to Ber­lin to par­tic­i­pate in the dy­namic UFA film in­dus­try. At a so­cial gath­er­ing soon af­ter she ar­rives, she is taken up by Magda Goebbels, An­neliese von Ribben­trop and other wives of the Nazi hi­er­ar­chy and asked to be­come part of Hitler’s plan to cre­ate a new Ger­man so­ci­ety, in which women’s fash­ion will play an in­te­gral part.

But a grow­ing friend­ship with a Bri­tish in­tel­li­gence op­er­a­tive leads her to use her act­ing skills to be­come a spy. Com­pli­ca­tions arise and Thynne delves deeper and deeper into the se­crets and dra­mas and fun­da­men­tal malev­o­lence of Nazism’s up­per ech­e­lons.

What Lon­doner Thynne has achieved in this com­pelling novel is the cre­ation of a Ger­man land­scape be­fore World War II that has been largely ig­nored by other writ­ers and histo-

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