Among fashionable Nazis before the war
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-