Many of us in the MMC Book Club love historical fiction. It’s an entertaining way to learn about events and times in the world through the eyes of fictional characters. Think less textbook learning and more storytelling.
When I saw The Huntress by Kate Quinn, I knew I had to add it to our book lineup.
We had previously read The Alice Network by this author and loved the story and characters. In this book, Quinn takes us back to the post World War II years and on a search for “Die Jägerin” or the Huntress, a Nazi sympathizer who committed heinous crimes during the war.
After a brief description of “Die Jägerin” and her crimes, we are introduced to Ian Graham.
He is a British war journalist who has seen it all. After the war, he abandons his writing and begins to hunt lower-level Nazi criminals who escaped criminal justice. He and his associate Tony make an efficient team, basing themselves out of Cologne and following leads around Europe. But there is one woman who Ian is desperate to find: “Die Jägerin” or the Huntress, a woman who killed six children and his younger brother in Poland.
A lead to her whereabouts comes in, and Tony reminds him that they also have a witness of the Huntress. She injured her and escaped her wrath while also surviving the war, and she could be useful in identifying her as they follow the trail. Her name is Nina Graham – and she is Ian’s wife.
Enter Nina Graham, formerly Nina Markova.
She grew up in Siberia and left at 19 years old to escape her abusive father. Inspired by a plane that landed near her home, she took all their money and left to become a pilot. Russia begins calling for female pilots, and Nina heads to Moscow to join the first all-female regiment of Russian pilots.
Ian met her in a hospital in Poland immediately following the war. She was the last person to see the Huntress, and she also witnessed his brother Sebastian’s death by her hand. She tells Ian that his brother promised to help her get to England before he died. Ian decides to marry Nina to get her there, with the plan to divorce after she is settled there. But life and work kept him busy and it never happened. Nina arrives to help Ian and Tony in their search for “Die Jägerin,” as she has her own score to settle with this woman.
Finally, we travel to America and meet Jordan McBride, one of our main characters.
She starts as a 17-year-old girl living in Boston with her father, a widower and the owner of an antique shop. She has dreams of attending college and living as a photographer despite her father’s desire for her to settle down and marry her boyfriend. When Mr. McBride brings home Annaliese, a German woman and single mother herself, Jordan has misgivings but pushes them aside for her father’s happiness. The two soon marry, and Jordan adores her new stepsister Ruth. The family blends together and finds happiness – for now.
These characters intertwine as their search for the Huntress brings them all together in Boston.
Jordan loves her stepmother but still finds small things that make her question her past. After her father’s sudden death, she hires a young man named Tony to help in the antique store. This is the same Tony who is working with Ian and Nina to find the Huntress. All three have made their way to Boston after following leads in Europe that bring them here. Tony is at the shop to spy on Mr. Kolb, a restorer that Annaliese encouraged her husband to sponsor and hire there.
Meanwhile, Ian and Nina are trailing Kolb during his downtime and tracking other leads. They are also getting to know one another; they knew nothing about one another when they married. Ian has scars from his time documenting the horrors of war. Nina was a part of the Night Witches, an all-female night bomber regiment prominent on the eastern front of the war. Her story of the war and of how she found herself with Sebastian in Poland is heartbreaking and courageous. As they continue the hunt, the couple finds that they are falling in love.
Does the trio ever find “Die Jägerin?” Will Jordan ever trust her stepmother? You’ll have to read the book to find out – and you will want to read this book.
The Huntress travels from Siberia to Salzburg to Boston. The characters are complex. The hunt for a war criminal brings together these people and highlights how their pain and trauma can bring them together or tear them apart. What we liked most was the idea that even in the light of horrors and atrocities of war, people can still come together for love, friendship, healing, and justice. I think we could all use that reminder.
Thank you for reading The Huntress with us! Come back next month – we are reading Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi.
If you would like more information on The Night Witches, click here. These were female pilots working on the front lines in Russia, and their story is fascinating.