Katie B's Reviews > The Last Year of the War

The Last Year of the War by Susan Meissner
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really liked it
bookshelves: arc, first-to-read, 1940s, historical-fiction, fiction, california, germany, iowa, read-in-2018, ww2, war

I love how this historical fiction book explored the topic of internment camps in World War 2 as it's something you don't see very often in the genre. To be quite honest it's basically a "let's just pretend it didn't happen" type subject here in the United States. I grew up in the 80s and 90s and I don't ever remember talking about it in school. So I'm glad this author decided this was a story worth telling.

It's 1943 and fourteen year old Elise Sontag is living in Iowa with her parents and brother. Even though her German born father has been a legal resident in the United States for two decades, he is still arrested on suspicion of being a Nazi sympathizer. The family is sent to live at an internment camp in Texas where Elise soon meets Mariko Inoue, a Japanese teen who has also been sent to live at the camp along with her family. The two strike up a friendship but as a brutal war rages on, things will never be the same.

When I first started reading the book I thought the girls' friendship would be the main focus. While it was a key part of the story, for me the real strength of the book was Elise and her life story. She brought an interesting perspective as someone who has lived her whole life as an American and yet she and her family were treated like the enemy and eventually sent to live in Germany. When the story moved to Germany it brought with it even more tension as you knew from history the war was coming to a close but yet was still bringing destruction.

I found this to be a really compelling historical fiction read. It's one of those good ones in which it holds your interest but you also learn a thing or two. The only criticism I have is I expected to feel something more when reading. I thought there was so much buildup with the friendship between the two girls and by the time the story caught up to the present day, it just felt lackluster and almost rushed. In general, while I certainly had enough interest in Elise to want to keep reading, I just never felt a real emotional connection to her. I might be in the minority with that opinion though.

Thank you to First to Read for the opportunity to read an advance digital copy! I was under no obligation to post a review and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
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Reading Progress

October 31, 2018 – Shelved
October 31, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
November 23, 2018 – Started Reading
November 23, 2018 – Shelved as: arc
November 23, 2018 – Shelved as: first-to-read
November 24, 2018 – Finished Reading
November 26, 2018 – Shelved as: 1940s
November 26, 2018 – Shelved as: historical-fiction
November 26, 2018 – Shelved as: fiction
November 26, 2018 – Shelved as: california
November 26, 2018 – Shelved as: germany
November 26, 2018 – Shelved as: iowa
November 26, 2018 – Shelved as: read-in-2018
November 26, 2018 – Shelved as: ww2
November 26, 2018 – Shelved as: war

Comments Showing 1-22 of 22 (22 new)

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Brandice Great review, Katie! I’m glad you enjoyed this! I read As Bright As Heaven by Meissner earlier this year and liked it, so I’m looking forward to this one too! :)


Susanne  Strong Nice review Katie! I have this to read and am looking forward to it!


message 3: by Paula (new)

Paula Kalin Exceptional review, Katie!


Katie B Brandice wrote: "Great review, Katie! I’m glad you enjoyed this! I read As Bright As Heaven by Meissner earlier this year and liked it, so I’m looking forward to this one too! :)"

Thanks Brandice! I'm looking forward to eventually reading As Bright As Heaven.


Katie B Susanne wrote: "Nice review Katie! I have this to read and am looking forward to it!"

Hope you enjoy it Susanne!


Katie B Paula wrote: "Exceptional review, Katie!"

Thanks Paula!


Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader Wonderful review, Katie! I’m so excited for this one!


message 8: by Sheri (new)

Sheri Great review, Katie!


Katie B Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader wrote: "Wonderful review, Katie! I’m so excited for this one!"

I think you'll like it Jennifer!


Katie B Sheri wrote: "Great review, Katie!"

Thanks Sheri!


message 11: by Toni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toni Katie thanks for your encouraging and honest review. I'm just starting to read this now, but it hasn't pulled me in yet. It's good to know it will get better. Thanks.


Katie B Toni wrote: "Katie thanks for your encouraging and honest review. I'm just starting to read this now, but it hasn't pulled me in yet. It's good to know it will get better. Thanks."

Thanks Toni! Definitely glad I read it and learned a bit more about internment camps as that's still a subject that doesn't get much coverage.


message 13: by Toni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toni Katie, you’re so right about this subject being ignored. I’m into now and it’s really good. Thanks much.


Katie B Toni wrote: "Katie, you’re so right about this subject being ignored. I’m into now and it’s really good. Thanks much."

So glad you are enjoying the book Toni!


Dorie  - Cats&Books :) Great review, you enjoyed it more than I did, I tried!


message 16: by Toni (new) - rated it 4 stars

Toni Katie, I recently finished the book, I agree with you about the ending feeling rushed. I still enjoyed the book even though I’ve read better from Meissner. Off to write my review. Thanks.


Katie B Dorie - Traveling Sister :) wrote: "Great review, you enjoyed it more than I did, I tried!"

Thanks Dorie! Sorry this one wasn't a better read for you!


Katie B Toni wrote: "Katie, I recently finished the book, I agree with you about the ending feeling rushed. I still enjoyed the book even though I’ve read better from Meissner. Off to write my review. Thanks."

Yeah, I needed just a tad bit more with the ending. I'm looking forward to checking out her other books as this one was the first I have read from her.


message 19: by Nicola (new)

Nicola Fantastic review Katie! 😊


Katie B Nicola wrote: "Fantastic review Katie! 😊"

Thanks Nicola!


message 21: by Marcia (new)

Marcia I recommend Farewell to Manzanar. I taught it when I was teaching in a high school.


Katie B Marcia wrote: "I recommend Farewell to Manzanar. I taught it when I was teaching in a high school."

Thanks for the recommendation! I just added it to my tbr list.


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