Brookes, Maggie. “The Prisoner’s Wife”, Berkeley Trade, 2020.
Based on a True Story
“The Prisoner’s Wife” by Maggie Brookes was inspired by the true story of deception that pushes a courageous young woman deep into the horrors of a Nazi Prisoner Of War camp to be with the man she loves.
In the dead of night, Izabela, a Czech farm girl and Bill, a British soldier travel through the countryside. Izabela and prisoner of war Bill have secretly married and are on the run. Izabela is dressed as a man and the two manage to evade capture for as long as possible but then, they are cornered by Nazi soldiers with tracking dogs.
As they flee, they are assumed to be escaped British soldiers and transported to a POW camp. This is just the beginning of what they go through. Their living conditions are appalling and they deal with constant fear of Izzy being exposure. Then they were lucky enough to become friends with a small group of fellow prisoners. Together they became a family and all were willing to jeopardize their lives to save Izzy from being discovered and shot.
This is the story of how our deepest bonds are tested in desperate times and of love and endurance during horrible hardships. While this is a fictional story, writer Brookes engaged in extensive research to write this book. She actually visited the sites she writes about here. Her descriptions of the conditions are realistic and harrowing.
Beginning in 1944, we meet Izabela as a Czech teenager whose family has torn asunder by war. Her father and older brother were fighting with the resistance against the Nazis and her mother was left short-handed to run the family farm. Izabela yearned to join the fight and set off on an adventure of her own. The Nazis were supplying several POWs to help with manual labor on the farm. Izabela fell for Bill King, the handsome musician and now prisoner from England. They secretly marry and ran away to support the rebel fighters but were captured by the Nazis. At this time Izabela was disguised as a male. The guards thought they brought in two young male captives—a British man and a mute teenage boy named Algernon Cousins.
Izabela’s survival was dependent upon her ability to keep her secret going and it was only because of fellow prisoners who came together to protect Izabela from the worst that she was able to survive. This is a powerful love story as well as a look at courage and strength of the human spirit.
Izabela risked her life and suffered the dangers of living as a man in a POW camp to stay with her husband. The detail is very real and potent. It will keep you turning pages as quickly as possible and make you believe again in the goodness of humanity.