Book Review Thursday: The Secrets of the Notebook: A Woman’s Quest to Uncover Her Royal Family Secret


Even after the author’s family fled Nazi Germany to take refuge in London, they still faced danger as Hitler’s blitzkrieg pounded England.  On the day Eve Haas (nee Jaretzki) turned sixteen her father showed her a piece of family history, a notebook, which contained secrets about her family’s history.  Years later after both of her parents had passed away Eve finally came into possession of the notebook.  Although her family had warned against researching the secrets lodged in the notebook, Eve decided to pursue it nonetheless.  The notebook’s opening inscription alone was intriguing enough to propel her forward, ignoring her family’s warnings.

By this time she had a family of her own, having been raised as a non-orthodox, secular Jew.  Her grandmother had been left behind and more than likely suffered death at the hands of the brutal Nazi regime.  The details which began to unfold revealed one startling revelation after another, but in order to get the complete story Eve and her husband had to find a way to access records which at this time were stored in Communist East Germany.

The process of discovering her family’s secret history took years of patience and research and Ms. Haas gives a thorough account of  both triumphs and disappointments.  At the heart of what she discovered was a touching love story and the identities of her great-great grandparents, one of which was Prussian royalty (and a distant relative of England’s Queen Victoria).  Due to the treachery of his own family and attempts on his young wife Emilie’s life, Prince August was forced to take extraordinary measures to protect their only child Charlotte, Eve’s great grandmother.

Granted, not everyone who sets out on a journey to discover their family’s history will find this kind of intrigue, let alone royalty or even some well-known historical figure.  Still, I found the story an intriguing one (one of those hard-to-put-down kind of stories), given my own interest in genealogical research.

Anyone who loves a good mystery, with a little bit of Cold-War intrigue and an interest in genealogy, will find this a great read – although I must warn at times the details may bog you down a bit.  A bonus for me was the inclusion of European history of which I had no previous knowledge.

Without a doubt any family researcher who has encountered brick wall after brick wall will appreciate how meticulously and diligently Ms. Haas pursued her goals.  The book, originally published in England, was an Irish Times best seller.  A movie based on the book is in development, but do yourself a favor and read the book first (almost always better than the movie!).

Rating:  ★★★★

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

  © Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2016.

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