Stroyar, J. N. The Children’s War. Pocket Books. June 2001. c.1168 p. ISBN 0-7434-0739-3. $29.95. Fiction.

Stroyar’s debut, a “what-if” depiction of Europe after the Third Reich has won World War II, focuses primarily on Peter Halifax (as he is known in one of his many identities), a man arrested for having bad papers. He is subsequently imprisoned, tortured, and condemned to death, then reeducated and thrust into a life of abject slavery as part of a Nazi experiment. After years of degrading brutality at the hands of various masters, Peter escapes to the Underground, only to find himself under suspicion as a collaborator. Many heart-rending moments follow in the battle against Nazi oppression. Though the pace of the last third occasionally slows and there may be comparisons to Robert Harris’s Fatherland and Len Deighton’s SS-GB, this is much more than a pat suspense novel or mystery; rather, it is an immensely assured and beautifully written work, remarkable for its nuanced characters, its insights into the subtleties of human relationships under stress, and its devastating portrayal of the horror of slavery and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of overwhelming cruelty. Highly recommended for all public libraries.

LJ, vol. 126, no. 7 (April 15, 2001), 134.

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