Islands of Deception: Lying with the Enemy

Written by Constance Hood
Review by Patricia O'Reilly

This novel, based on the historical contents of filing cabinets containing memoirs, letters, journals, and photos of declassified Counter Intelligence Corps documents, is a mesmerising read from start to finish. It is no surprise that Islands of Deceptionis a Five Stars Readers’ Favourite.

The story opens in 1939, with the threat of fascism looming over

Amsterdam. Brother and sister Hans and Esther Bernsteen come from a comfortable middle-class family. Aware of the looming political situation, Hans tries to persuade Esther to go to the United States with him, but she tears up her visa, preferring to stay with her boyfriend. Brother and sister are set on divergent paths.

Hans plans to become a photographer in New York, but ends up actively involved in World War II. A loner, his talents are appreciated by the US Army. He is a man with a camera and a sense of curiosity.

Esther is left pregnant by her boyfriend, who joins up with the RAF in the UK. She is foolhardy and ends up in Bergen-Belsen, pregnant yet again. She seduces an SS captain and, against all odds, he falls in love with her and rescues her,believing the child to be his. They escape to the United States where, after several years, Hans locates them.

This is well-written in sturdy journalistic style; the characters are clearly and convincingly drawn. It is a terrifying true story that, through Hood’s capable writing, clearly illustrates the determination to cling to life, even in the worst of circumstances.