BookBrowse Reviews My Enemy's Cradle by Sara Young (Pennypacker)

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

My Enemy's Cradle

by Sara Young (Pennypacker)

My Enemy's Cradle by Sara Young (Pennypacker) X
My Enemy's Cradle by Sara Young (Pennypacker)
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Jan 2008, 384 pages
    Oct 2008, 384 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Stacey Brownlie
Buy This Book

About this Book



Part love story and part elegy for the terrible choices we must sometimes make, set inside a WWII Lebensborn, a maternity home for girls carrying German babies

Sara Young tackles both the common and the uncommon in her first adult novel, a love story set against the backdrop of German occupied Holland during World War II. Fiction readers know that the Second World War is a subject often plumbed by novelists, as is the topic of couples forming romantic bonds and enduring separation and danger during wartime. These elements in themselves may be enough to prick the interest of readers who crave a wartime romance, but Young's tale has another element likely to set it apart from the many choices in this genre.

A Nazi program called "Lebensborn" designed to replenish the German army with the babies of girls pregnant by German soldiers is so central to this story that it almost acts as one of the main characters. What makes this historical element particularly interesting, besides the lure of the bizarre, is that few novelists have explored this facet of Nazi history. Young's book chronicles an element of World War II eerily opposite to the bold evil of the deportations and concentration camps of the Holocaust: a Nazi system of housing pregnant women in lavish mansions, feeding and protecting them while they wait to give birth. However, once the children are born, the Nazi machine reveals itself, separating mother from child and accepting only "perfect" newborns. As a result, My Enemy's Cradle has two potential audiences: fans of World War II romance and fans of unique historical fiction.

The novel is the story of a young woman, half-Dutch and half-Jewish, living in Holland with her aunt, uncle and cousin – a young woman struggling with her identity; with her mother's death and father's perceived abandonment; with her feelings of adoration and jealousy of her beautiful cousin, Annike; and with her unrequited love for Isaac. Cyrla's love for Isaac and her sisterly relationship with more experienced Annike also lead her to explore sexual love; the physical expression of romantic love and its stages, from curiosity to maturity, are also woven throughout the larger story.

As the novel blends well-worn themes with the unexplored, the book's characters and writing similarly vacillate between respectable and very good. Young shines when describing moments of loss and fear – the absence of a person, sexual violation, the terror of approaching childbirth under Nazi guard. At times, one wishes that the secondary characters could be given more attention, allowing the reader to explore their motivations and histories. Perhaps Young intentionally limited the reader's knowledge, not only for the sake of maintaining a swiftly moving plot, but also to put them in the same position as her main character. For Cyrla must make choices based on what she thinks she knows, taking one step at a time (as she often reminds herself in the story). As the tale unfolds and relationships are both formed and lost, Cyrla slowly discovers the influence that appearance versus reality and truth versus assumption have upon her survival – and her happiness.

My Enemy's Cradle is a good read, though there are plot elements and character interactions that may strike some as unrealistic. However, these portions do gain credibility by virtue of the unnatural setting and extreme time in which they take place. Risky decisions, compromise and relationships – both forbidden and convenient – during the German occupation are part of Cyrla's story, as they are part of World War II history.

Reviewed by Stacey Brownlie

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in January 2008, and has been updated for the October 2008 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten.

Find out more

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: Yolk
    by Mary Choi
    Mary H.K. Choi's young adult offering Yolk deftly maintains several plotlines running through the ...
  • Book Jacket: The Blizzard Party
    The Blizzard Party
    by Jack Livings
    It is 1978 and the place is New York City. A massive bacchanalian party is taking place at an Upper ...
  • Book Jacket: The Light of Days
    The Light of Days
    by Judy Batalion
    Renia, Sarah, Zivia, Frumka, Hantze, Tosia, Vladka, Chajka, Gusta, Hela, Bela, Lonka, Tema, Chasia, ...
  • Book Jacket: Hummingbird Salamander
    Hummingbird Salamander
    by Jeff VanderMeer
    In Hummingbird Salamander, Jeff VanderMeer weaves cybersecurity, bioterrorism, wildlife trafficking ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Widow Queen
    by Elzbieta Cherezinska

    The epic story of an 11th century Polish queen whose life and name were all but forgotten until now.

    Reader Reviews
  • Book Jacket

    The Funny Thing About Norman Foreman
    by Julietta Henderson

    A charming, uplifting debut about a mother and her 12-year-old son, an aspiring comedian.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
Miss Austen
by Gill Hornby
A witty, poignant novel about Cassandra Austen and her famous sister, Jane.
Win This Book!
Win The Beauty of Your Face

A New York Times Notable Book of 2020

"Stunning.… A timely family saga with faith and forgiveness at its core."
Marie Claire



Solve this clue:

It's N S O M N

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.