The Angel of Vienna by Kate Hewitt
Book Review

book cover image
Publisher: Bookouture
Publication Date: June 16, 2022
Format: ebook, print and audio
Genre: Historical Fiction, WWII


Nazi-occupied Vienna, 1940: A young nurse finds herself with the chance to save innocent children. An unmissable and heartbreaking story—based on devastating real events—about tragedy, hope and courage in the face of impossible odds.

“These children, who the Nazis don’t even see as human, these children are innocent. And, Hannah, if you have the chance to save even one of them, you know what you have to do. Even if it puts your own life at risk.”

As bombs fall over Europe, Hannah Stern is a twenty-seven-year-old nurse, who is just trying to survive. When she takes a position at Vienna’s esteemed psychiatric hospital, Am Steinhof, she thinks it will take her away from the danger.

Her estranged half-brother has arranged the job for her on the condition that she must take his son, Willi there too. He insists it’s a place where Willi will be safe. And Hannah soon forms a close bond with the sweet, fragile child in her care.

At first the hospital seems like a safe haven—a beautiful, airy, spacious place of healing and recovery. But the hospital is a place of secrets. And they are darker than Hannah could ever have imagined. Children, ones just like Willi, are disappearing—not to be healed as promised, but taken somewhere else. Somewhere terrible.

And when Willi’s own life comes under threat—in spite of her half-brother’s position of power in the Nazi military—Hannah must overcome her own fears and act. Then she discovers one of the other nurses is also trying to help patients escape, and Hannah becomes determined to help in any way she can.

But she is only one person up against the enemy. And to save even just one life from the grip of the Nazis, she must risk her own…

The most unmissable historical fiction of the year, guaranteed to leave readers in tears. Perfect for fans of My Name is Eva, All the Light We Cannot See and The Tattooist of Auschwitz.

My Thoughts

When the story opens, Hannah Stern is a paediatric nurse at a Lebensborn facility, a place where unmarried mothers who are a part of the Reich's programme to raise the birth rate of Aryan children, go to give birth. Only the perfect babies are put up for adoption, usually by SS officers and their wives. Those babies born with abnormalities are sent to orphanages. Hannah is heart broken when this happens, but is mindful of her position and accepts that this is the system under which she works.

Hannah's estranged half-brother, Georg Strasser, a major in army intelligence, summons her to his home in Berlin. Surprised and curious, Hannah cannot refuse as she is under an obligation to him, for Georg was instrumental in her becoming a nurse and escaping a life of poverty.

He has never introduced her to his family before but at his home she meets his disabled 11 year old son, Willi, a son she did not know existed. Georg's request is that Hannah accompany Willi to Am Steinhof, a psychiatric hospital in Vienna. Here, Willi will receive treatment for his disability and Hannah will continue to work as a nurse. She finds Willi intelligent and friendly, and comes to love the boy.

First impressions of the hospital and its director, Dr Jekelius, convince Hannah that this is the right place for Willi, but when she visits the ward he is in, she realises that she has been deceived. When children are marked for special treatment, removed to another ward and never return, she begins to question what is happening and embarks on a dangerous course of action.

What I liked most about this novel was how Hannah's character developed across the story. As soon as Hannah is introduced, we see that she is different from the other nurses. Despite a sense of hopelessness at what is happening around her and a need to feel safe and secure, she remains a compassionate and caring person, observant but tries to keep her thoughts to herself. She appears naive, believing or wants to believe that the children once gone from her care are treated humanely. However, once at Am Steinhof, she sees a different side to the treatment of disabled children. She still wants to believe that they are cared for decently, but cannot disregard what she sees and hears. Overcoming her fears and aware that Georg's position is not a guarantee of Willi's safety or hers, she joins a small, clandestine group to save as many children as possible from the horrendous fate that awaits them.

I always enjoy a Kate Hewitt novel and this one was no exception, although it is more heartbreaking than the previous novels I've read of hers; those featuring children usually are. I already knew of the experiments and other practices carried out at Am Steinhof. Nevertheless, Hewitt's novel left me feeling disturbed and greatly saddened by the cruelty and monstrousness of it all, which was slightly assuaged by the epilogue that saw justice handed out to some and the promise of a better future for others.

The Angel of Vienna is another great read from Kate Hewitt.

Meet the Author

Kate Hewitt
Kate Hewitt is the author of many romance and women’s fiction novels. A former New Yorker and now an American ex-pat, she lives in a small town on the Welsh border with her husband, five children, and their overly affectionate Golden Retriever. Whatever the genre, she enjoys telling stories that tackle real issues and touch people’s lives.

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  1. I saw this one advertised this week in a book bub email I receive daily. Thanks for reviewing it, I’m going to check it out now. Great job with your thoughts:) I like your review format!

    1. Thank you. I hope you decide to read it!

  2. The above comment was published anonymously, I’m Shellie from :) I accidentally published it without my info!

    1. Thanks for coming back and letting me know who you are!

  3. I have heard of this author but i haven't read any of her books yet!

    Thanks for sharing with the Historical Fiction Reading Challenge!

    1. If you like Ella Carey's novels, then I recommend Kate Hewitt.