Cold Peace

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
682 Pages
Reviewed on 06/20/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

Cold Peace: Bridge to Tomorrow is a work of fiction in the historical, interpersonal drama, and wartime fiction subgenres. It is best suited to the general adult reading audience and was penned by author Helena P. Schrader. In this highly immersive and engrossing historical tale, we find ourselves transported back to the post-war era following the Second World War. In Berlin, tensions run high as a cast of characters forms an air ambulance company, including female air traffic controllers and former RAF pilots. Carrying the scars of the last war with them, it’s not long before the threat of Stalin brews up trouble once more.

Author Helena P. Schrader has crafted a spellbinding work of historical fiction that brings a unique pocket of history to life with extraordinary detail and heart. I loved the premise and was so intrigued to learn about the Berlin Airlift, particularly through such a naturally told and engaging storyline that gives us all the richness of the period but never has a dull moment in the plot. I was particularly drawn to Kathleen Hart and her journey of self-discovery throughout the tale, but readers will all find different people to relate to as Schrader puts heart and soul into the dialogue and development of everyone from cover to cover. This keen sense of reality adds to the overall attitude of the piece, giving an authentic image of people caught in a very unsettling historical time. Overall, Cold Peace is a deeply engrossing novel that I would recommend to fans of military history, realistic drama, and suspense novels alike.

Jon Michael Miller

In November 1947, a Royal Air Force pilot Robin Priestman was assigned to command a small air station at Gatow, Germany, a British footprint on the outskirts of Berlin. He didn’t want to accept the posting but went with his wife Emily. His job was to keep the Russians from cutting off food supplies from the residents of Berlin. Elsewhere in Berlin, Charlotte was a journalist digging for stories to sell so she could purchase some fresh eggs, possibly a bar of soap, and keep from being raped. She lived in a bombed-out neighborhood in what was once a royal home, now inhabited by destitute refugees. These are but two of the dramatic stories assembled by World War II scholar Helena P. Schrader in Cold Peace, the first volume of a trilogy about the Berlin Airlift. We learn the history of this oft-forgotten aftermath of the war. The dilemma was what to do with the conquered German masses, many of them anti-Nazi, some of them too young to have participated, others sent to death camps or wounded, lost, or desperate, some selling their bodies for a pack of cigarettes.

Helena P. Schrader could simply have written a history book, but instead, she makes the reader relive what happened through her historical novel. What engaged me most was the life-and-death political struggle. Schrader populates her masterpiece with storylines not only concerning the military but also of the diplomats struggling to prevent mass slaughter, and with characters and situations including stolen art, ravaged property, cart drivers, farmers, children, wives, lovers, job seekers, entrepreneurs, and hustlers. I felt the tensions rise, with the Russian slow death grip aiming to strangle the helpless residents. In Cold Peace, the author makes us feel the issues at play during this seldom-written-about but vital period following the war that changed history by preventing World War III.

Grant Leishman

Cold Peace by Helena P. Schrader is the first of what I understand to be a trilogy of novels based around the incredible 1948-49 Berlin Airlift. This was a humanitarian effort by the Allied powers to supply the citizens of Berlin with necessities by air after the Soviet Union blockaded all ground transport into Berlin, which was deep within the Soviet sphere of influence in post-WWII Germany. Wing Commander Robin Priestman was convinced his Air Force career was going nowhere following the end of hostilities in 1945. When he found himself posted to Gatow Airfield, in the British sector of Berlin, he was deeply disappointed. He had spent the war as a fighter pilot, shooting down Germans and now he was expected to go back to Germany and “play nice” with the very people he had been so recently fighting. When David Goldman was left a considerable fortune on his father’s death, he teamed up with another crew-mate from the war, Charles Murray, to start an air-ambulance service in the beleaguered city of Berlin. They decided to locate their business in Gatow, where their friend and colleague Robin Priestman was Station Commander. All this played out against the background of increased Soviet pressure to eliminate the Allied powers from Berlin and install a puppet communist regime in all of Eastern Germany.

It was only once I started reading Cold Peace that I realized this was a continuation of a previous book by Helena P. Schrader. The author captures the different attitudes and commitments of the various Allied parties that made up the ruling powers in Berlin post World War II perfectly. The beauty of this narrative is that it educates wonderfully, as well as entertains completely. The relationships between the various characters are fully explored and complete but the factual account of what happened in Berlin leading up to the Soviet Blockade and subsequent Allied airlift is also provided. I particularly appreciated the confusion many of the characters experienced in having to interact socially and professionally with people they had been taught to despise and destroy for five and a half long years of war. It was interesting to note the difference between the political views of some of the participants as opposed to the professional nature of the relationships between the two station commanders, Priestman and Kuznetsov. Robin Priestman asserted that it was easier to talk to each other as airman to airman, rather than Englishman to Russian. This is a wide-ranging and expansive dive into the nature of the Berlin Airlift and I cannot wait to read the follow-up books from this superbly talented author.