The Bitter End begins at a shocking moment; the gassing of a group of Jews in a death chamber at Auschwitz. Incredibly, when the Nazi guards open the chamber to remove the bodies, one woman is still alive. Immediately proclaimed as a witch, she is taken to the Fuhrer himself, where the demonic spirit possessing Hitler, called ‘Lamia’, decides to jump ship to a more powerful and useful host.
From there, the story jumps forward several decades, to two young boys fascinated by the ‘witch’ who lives in the English woods near their home, and then to the present day and the protagonist Paul (one of those young boys, now grown up) as he moves back to the village where he lived as a child and finds strange memories resurging as odd things begin to happen around him.
There is a lot of completely unexplained ‘witchcraft’ in the book, and since the reader is pretty much only given Paul’s perspective and Paul really never has any idea what is going on, it feels pretty frustrating. We get very brief glimpses into the mind of Lamia, but never enough to explain just how or why many of the odd incidents occur. There were any number of things which didn’t make sense, including why the Lamia hadn’t left her aging and near-immobile host decades before for a younger, stronger one. Most frustratingly of all, the book ends with literally nothing being resolved. I have no idea if the author intends to write a sequel - I daresay it’s possible this is the first of a series - but even so, ending it with the witch having moved on with her objectives apparently achieved and the protagonists completely clueless as to what to do next is definitely suboptimal.
I read the book in one session and it was about twenty minutes after I finished reading when I finally connected the dots and realised just what it was that bothered me so much (apart from the unresolved ending). Having the Lamia be in possession of Hitler from the day he became Chancellor until the day of his suicide basically excuses all the terrible events of the Holocaust and WWII because he ‘was not himself’, but essentially in service to a demon. It excuses the evil done by men, and men have never needed an excuse to make war and do terrible things to other people. With a Jewish woman’s identity being stolen and used as a synonym for the ‘evil entity’ throughout the rest of the book only adds anti-Semitic insult to injury.
I’m not Jewish, or Romani, or Russian or Polish or any of the other ethnic and racial identities so cruelly victimized by the Nazis. I can only imagine how insulting anyone who IS one of those people would find this book, however, and be glad I’m the one who read it so I can warn them to avoid it.
This seriously needed a sensitivity reader, and a content editor to help the writer give it an ending! For the Nazi-excusing, anti-Semitic undertones, however, I am forced to give it one star and put this writer on my Do Not Read Ever Again list. Avoid at all costs.
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book for review through NetGalley.