Title: At the Wolf’s Table
Author: Rosella Postorino
Published: February 1st 2019
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Australia
Genres: Fiction, Historical
Rating: 3.5 stars
They called it the Wolfsschanze, the Wolf’s Lair. ‘Wolf’ was his nickname. As hapless as Little Red Riding Hood, I had ended up in his belly . . .
Germany, 1943: Twenty-six-year-old Rosa Sauer’s parents are gone and her husband Gregor is far away, fighting on the front lines. Impoverished and alone in war-torn Berlin, she makes the fateful decision to seek refuge with her in-laws in the countryside.
But one morning the SS arrive to inform her she has been conscripted as one of Hitler’s food tasters. Twice a day, Rosa and nine other women must go to his secret headquarters, the Wolf ’s Lair, to eat his meals before he does. After each meal, the women must wait an hour to see if they will die.
Forced into this deadly game of roulette, the tasters divide into The Fanatics, loyal to Hitler, and the women like Rosa who insist they aren’t Nazis, even as they risk their lives every day for his.
As secrets and resentments grow, one of Rosa’s SS guards becomes dangerously familiar. And as the war escalates, it becomes increasingly clear that Rosa and everyone she knows are on the wrong side of history.
At the Wolf’s Table is a historical fiction title inspired by a short newspaper article the author of the novel came across in 2014. Rosella Postorino was intrigued by the life of Margot Wolk, Hitler’s last surviving food tasters. Interestingly, Margot Wolk did not choose to reveal her work as a food taster until the very end of her life. Struck deeply by this woman and her experiences, Postorino felt compelled to bring Margot’s amazing hidden history to life in her book, At the Wolf’s Table.
Originally published in Italian and translated into English in 2019 as a Simon and Schuster publication, At the Wolf’s Table is the jaw dropping story of Rosa Sauer. In this remarkable story, Rosa is conscripted to work for the SS in Hitler’s Lair, as one of his official food tasters. It is a book that has a strong cinematic quality and I wasn’t surprised to discover that movie rights have been obtained. I’m keen to see how it would all play out on the big screen. I enjoyed this book, but I felt like there were some pieces missing, or perhaps there were some areas that were not clarified so well in the process of translation.
The history behind this novel is fascinating to say the least. It draws our attention to the situation many ordinary German people faced in World War II. Rosa, the main protagonist, feels apathetic towards the Nazi regime, yet she is coerced into accepting a position as one of Hitler’s team working as his food taster. It must have been hard, aligning your personal beliefs with the simple act of preserving your own life. This is highlighted well in the novel. I also learnt some previously unknown facts about Hitler himself and his household, which satisfied this WWII fiend’s hunger for more stories from this era.
Rosa herself is a fairly difficult character to pin down. I’m not sure if I liked her. I did sympathise with Rosa’s predicament and I wanted her to survive. I found many of her choices disagreeable, but I think the author is trying to make us see that many German people made terrible and ill-fated choices during the war, that would continue to haunt them for the rest of their lives. Rosa is quite the outsider in the book, she doesn’t click with the other female taste tasters, and she forms an alliance with an SS officer that is incredibly doomed. I did enjoy the sense of danger and risk that went with this segment in the novel. Likewise, the atmosphere of possible death through the infected food was presented well by the author. I was on edge for much of the book!
At the Wolf’s Table takes a little known event in history and places it in a compelling format, thanks to the writing of Rosella Postorino. A perturbing story that is both shocking and intriguing, anyone with a passing interest in the dramatic history of World War II should pick this one up to read.
At the Wolf’s Table by Rosella Postorino was published on 1st February 2019 by Simon & Schuster Australia. Details on how to purchase the book can be found here.