The Winter Orphans Book Review

If you're looking for a wintery novel and love historical fiction, look no further than The Winter Orphans by Kristen Beck. This intensely emotional read is perfect for snowy days, ideally cuddled up with a good book and a warm mug of something. A Holocaust story at heart, this novel is based on the true story of a Swiss Red Cross nurse's determination to save as many children as possible from the hands of the Nazis. Fans of Kristin Hannah and Kristin Harmel will not want to miss this book!


This blog is reader-supported. At no cost to you, I earn a small commission from affiliate links used in this post. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, visit my legal page.

The Winter Orphans: Book Review

Quick Look

  • Quick Look
  • WWII historical fiction
  • multiple POVs
  • Holocaust story
  • sisterly bond
  • fierce female MCs
  • wintery/snowy setting

Pub Date: September 13, 2022

Thanks to Uplit Reads for the gifted copy!

Publisher's Synopsis

A poignant and ultimately triumphant novel based on the incredible true story of children who braved the formidable danger of guarded, wintry mountain passes in France to escape the Nazis, from the acclaimed author of Courage, My Love.

In a remote corner of France, Jewish refugee Ella Rosenthal has finally reached safety. It has been three years since she and her little sister, Hanni, left their parents to flee Nazi Germany, and they have been pursued and adrift in the chaos of war ever since. Now they shelter among one hundred other young refugees in a derelict castle overseen by the Swiss Red Cross.

Swiss volunteers Rösli Näf and Anne-Marie Piguet uphold a common mission: to protect children in peril. Rösli, a stubborn and resourceful nurse, directs the colony of Château de la Hille, and has created a thriving community against all odds. Anne-Marie, raised by Swiss foresters, becomes both caretaker and friend to the children, and she vows to do whatever is necessary to keep them safe.

However, when Germany invades southern France, safeguarding Jewish refugees becomes impossible. Château de la Hille faces unrelenting danger, and Rösli and Anne-Marie realize that the only way to protect the eldest of their charges is to smuggle them out of France. Relying on Rösli's fierce will and Anne-Marie's knowledge of secret mountain paths, they plot escape routes through vast Nazi-occupied territory to the distant border. Amid staggering risk, Ella and Hanni embark on a journey that, if successful, could change the course of their lives and grant them a future.

My Review

If you've been following me for a while, then you know I love WWII books. I'm especially partial to WWII novels based on a true story and featuring strong, powerful women. So, it's no surprise that I loved The Winter Orphans.

Immersive and intense, The Winter Orphans is the type of book you won't want to put down. I read it in just two sittings, highly unusual for me. The changing points of view keeps the book moving forward at a quick pace. And the nail-biting moments and plot twists kept me so engrossed in the story I had to know what happened next.

With such young main characters, I feared that The Winter Orphans would read more like a YA novel than women's fiction. But the drama coupled with adult themes (death, intimacy) helped this book feel adult despite the youthful sisters. While Ella and Hanni are central characters in the book, the more powerful storyline is that of Rösli. Her struggle to keep her wards safe was pure heroism. She reminded me of Isabelle and Vianne of The Nightingale, making her a familiar character that was easy to connect with and champion.

My Rating

I couldn't put this book down toward the end, eager to know what happens in the end. It's an unforgettable tale of resilience and perseverance that I won't soon forget. Fans of heart-wrenching Holocaust stories will love The Winter Orphans. It's the closest I've come to the emotional intensity of Kristin Hannah's great novel, The Nightingale.

Before You Go

Be sure to sign up for my email newsletter where I share updates about the latest reading wrap-ups and blog posts, must-see book deals, and behind-the-scenes updates! If email isn’t your thing, head to Bookstagram or BookTok to follow along for all the bookish fun!

About Carlie

Hi there! I'm a 40-ish book lover, always looking for the next great read, particularly the best historical fiction. I live in Los Angeles with my fella and our fur babies, Fozzy and Polly. Working from home changed my life. Suddenly, I had time in my day to read again. I love sharing my reading journey here on my website and social media. Be sure to follow along for reading recommendations and honest book reviews.

Leave a Comment