As I point out in my Author’s Note, the idea for The Taster came from an Associated Press article published in April 2013. The true story of a woman who tasted the food of Adolph Hitler to protect him from poisoning captured my imagination and spurred my desire to write the story.
For years, I wanted to pen what I called, for lack of a better term, “a holocaust novel.” As time progressed, however, I felt I lacked enough familiarity with the literal and cultural subtexts of the tragedy to write about it with authority, despite extensive research. I also came to the realization that I could offer little to an already distinguished body of work that existed in many mediums, including books and film. One only has to think of Night by Elie Wiesel, or the films Schindler’s List, and The Pianist. To match the excellence of such heart-wrenching stories seemed too daunting a task. But when I read the AP article, I realized that The Taster would be the novel I’d been hoping to write.
Through my heroine, Magda Ritter, I could approach the war from an angle few writers had explored. Magda starts life as an ordinary German girl, naïve about much of life, including politics. Through her uncle’s contacts, she ends up in her position as a taster for Hitler, a job she neither asked for nor imagined possible. She evolves from naiveté to a member of the resistance. Her voice was the one I heard clearly and forcefully while writing the novel—she reminded me often that her story must be told.
Magda is pretty much put through the wringer in the novel. In writing about war it’s necessary to bring momentous and tragic events to the reader. As in any book such as this, The Taster is paced for dramatic effect with little let up once the story is set. I placed Magda in her own unique scenes while constructing several based on the real taster’s experience.
As in my previous book for Kensington, The Magdalen Girls, and in all my historical fiction, I strive to be true to my characters and to the time in which they lived. My readers also expect courage and love to emerge as antidotes for the troubling times my characters face.
I sincerely hope readers will find this young woman’s journey as vivid and enthralling as I did when Magda “dictated” it to me. It’s a different perspective from a time we should never forget.
Amid the turbulence of World War II, a young German woman finds a precarious haven closer to the source of danger than she ever imagined—one that will propel her through the extremes of privilege and terror under Hitler’s dictatorship . . .
In early 1943, Magda Ritter’s parents send her to relatives in Bavaria, hoping to keep her safe from the Allied bombs strafing Berlin. Young German women are expected to do their duty—working for the Reich or marrying to produce strong, healthy children. After an interview with the civil service, Magda is assigned to the Berghof, Hitler’s mountain retreat. Only after weeks of training does she learn her assignment: she will be one of several young women tasting the Führer’s food, offering herself in sacrifice to keep him from being poisoned.
Perched high in the Bavarian Alps, the Berghof seems worlds away from the realities of battle. Though terrified at first, Magda gradually becomes used to her dangerous occupation—though she knows better than to voice her misgivings about the war. But her love for a conspirator within the SS, and her growing awareness of the Reich’s atrocities, draw Magda into a plot that will test her wits and loyalty in a quest for safety, freedom, and ultimately, vengeance.
Vividly written and ambitious in scope, The Taster examines the harrowing moral dilemmas of war in an emotional story filled with acts of extraordinary courage.
Praise for V.S. Alexander’s The Magdalen Girls
“Fans of Barbara Davis and Ashley Hay will enjoy this tenderhearted story of sinner, saints, and redemption.” —Booklist
“Alexander has clearly done his homework. Chilling in its realism, his work depicts the improprieties long abandoned by the Catholic Church and only recently acknowledged. Fans of the book and film Philomena will want to read this.” —Library Journal