The Secrets of the Notebook:
A Woman's Quest to Uncover Her Royal Family Secret

by Eve Haas

Arcade Publishing, 2013. ISBN 978-1-611-45906-7.
Reviewed by Trilla Pando
Posted on 02/11/2014

Nonfiction: Memoir; Nonfiction: History/Current Events

In war-torn 1940 London, a displaced Jewish father shared an ancient, fragile notebook with his sixteen-year-old daughter. Carefully she opened it—and learned the family secret: her father, Hans Jaretzki, and she shared a royal predecessor. Her great-great-grandfather was a Prussian prince who had married Emilie Gottschalk, a young Jewish girl. The details? Lost. The treasured book was all they had—and would have.

"The book will be yours to keep... But you mustn't do anything about it. Remember, Eve, there is nothing more to find out."

Eve kept the memory but did not own or even see the book until after her mother's death thirty years later. Then she disregarded her father's admonishment. Finding Emilie, her daughter Charlotte, and the resting place of Charlotte's daughter and Eve's grandmother, Anna became a quest—a successful one that I can share without spoiling the story.

I should say "stories," for Eve Haas skillfully weaves several stories into this memoir. Foremost is the quest for Emilie and Charlotte. There is also the tale of a Jewish girl growing up in Berlin as Adolph Hitler comes to power, and the anguished and difficult decision to move to London, leaving an aged and infirm grandmother (Anna) behind in Prague.

Perhaps most intriguing is the story of the quest itself. Eve did not undertake it alone, although she almost did. She enlisted the help of her husband Ken Haas. At first he was more than reluctant. A few years older than Eve, he had barely escaped from Hitler's domination in the 1930s. He had no desire to return, most especially not to East Germany—no place for westerners to be in the 1970s. But Eve prevailed and soon Ken was a full-blown, equally dedicated partner. The story of the cooperative search and the obstacles they overcome weld the other stories together.

I won't spoil things by telling more. These entrancing stories will have broad appeal, and, moreover, make an important contribution both the history of Europe since Napoleon and of World War II Germany and its citizens.

For writers, it's encouraging to know that Eve Haas committed these stories to paper when she was in her late eighties. My thanks both for making them live on and for being a personal inspiration.

Eve Haas, now ninety, was born in Germany and moved with her family to London when she was sixteen. She has lived there since. Her career focused on writing both as a magazine contributor and the author of children's books. She had a long marriage to her co-adventurer Ken and three sons. Timothy Haas often joins her in writing.

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