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The German Woman

3.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  225 Ratings  ·  67 Reviews
This riveting war story introduces us to beautiful Kate Zweig, the English widow of a German surgeon, and Claus Murphy, an exiled American with German roots—two lovers with complicated loyalties.

In 1918, Kate and her husband,Horst, are taken for spies by Russian soldiers and forced to flee their field hospital on the eastern front, barely escaping with their lives. Years l
Hardcover, 320 pages
Published June 8th 2009 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 2009)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 468)
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Jun 17, 2009 Cynthia rated it really liked it
As an American I always find what the British went through in World War II a bit fantastical. This book reminded me of that. In fact the best part of the book was making those years in Britain come alive. There was constant terror, anticipation of loss...both loss of your own life or your loved ones, the importance of food, of a warm bath. And worst of all, perhaps, not knowing who to trust. Who was loyal to the UK and who wasn't? Even doubting your own motives at times. Trying to do the best th ...more
Dec 08, 2013 Lindsay rated it it was amazing
I am drawn to nonfiction and fiction about the first half of the twentieth century for some reason, and in particular World War II. "The German Woman" is a well-written haunting novel centered on an English nurse (Kate) married to a German doctor who finds herself in a ragtag hospital in eastern Germany during World War I. She and her husband are accused of being spies for the Russians, so the only choice is to try to get to safety. Some of the most horrific descriptions of warfare and utter cru ...more
Jul 31, 2009 Laurel rated it really liked it
I liked this book. It was different from most WWI/WWII books I've read in that it spans the two wars. In addition, it captures two people caught between allegiance to both "sides." I have a difficult time with spy novels; I always find them confusing. The German Woman is more accessible than most. Very interesting book. Not the ending I expected, but a very believable one.
Oct 15, 2009 Harry rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
To label this a "spy" novel would be a disservice. The author's descriptions of post-WWI Germany as well as the 1944 V1 bombings of London bring history to the level of the individuals who struggled through those times. It's a rather dark story of a woman who experienced both sides of both wars. The ending is predictable.
Christine Rebbert
Jan 07, 2016 Christine Rebbert rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I spent entirely too much time on this book. The holiday busy-ness didn't help, but besides that, it's like I kept waiting for SOMETHING to happen. I am a big consumer of WWII historical fiction, and this is actually both Wars, but it was way too murky. Was he a spy? Was she a spy? What happened to her first husband? Was his name Charles or Claus? Did the writer get tired and just throw it all away on the last page? There were a few things that I started getting interested in (a former D.W. Grif ...more
Aug 12, 2011 Peg rated it really liked it
This novel entitled the German Woman is really about an English nurse who married a German surgeon. The book opens toward to end of WWI when Kate Zweig and her husband are moving westward, working in hospitals, as German fortunes are declining. Earlier in their marriage, they lived in England, but were forced to leave when hostilities broke out between England and Germany. The next part of the book unfolds in London during WWII, when Claus (aka Charles), a person of mixed background and loyaltie ...more
Wisteria Leigh
Feb 23, 2009 Wisteria Leigh rated it really liked it
THE GERMAN WOMAN[return]Paul Griner, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009, $25.00, hb, 320pp. 9780547055220.[return][return] The German Woman is the story of an English woman, Kate Zwieg, a trained nurse who is married to a German surgeon, Horst Zweig. It is 1919 during WW1 and together they work serving injured soldiers from the battles in East Prussia. Fast forward twenty-five years and Kate is now in London, the summer of 1944, considered the summer that never was. It is now WWII, bombings, air-ra ...more
May 29, 2012 Cheryl rated it really liked it
This book kind of has two halves as it follows Kate, a nurse during both of the World Wars. The first half focuses on Kate, an Englishwoman who is married to a German doctor and works in Europe during the First World War and then suffers from the privations in Germany that follow the end of that war. In the second half of the book Kate returns to England in the early period of the Second World War where she meets Claus, a German/American living in exile in England and working as a double agent. ...more
Oct 18, 2009 Jen rated it did not like it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Nov 28, 2009 Ruth rated it it was ok
In his credits, the author thanks his editor. I can’t quote what he says, the book’s gone back to the library, but the idea seemed to be that good editing was what turned a messy ms into a real book. I think more work was needed. The editing seams show. Sections, and even sometimes sentences, jump around in a disconcerting manner. You know, the kind of thing that happens when you move chunks of text around in a word-processing program.

Add to that a plot that is confusing in and of itself and it
Jul 02, 2014 Connie rated it liked it
This was a very hard book for me to read. I wasn't sure what was happening. The first part about Horst and Kate was very interesting, but when I got to the Charles Murphy section, I became lost.

I am sure the period was depicted correctly but I didn't really care for any of the characters. I really didn't even like Kate at the end.

I am sure it had some deep meaning, but I didn't get it.

Jackie Sanderson
Nov 07, 2010 Jackie Sanderson rated it really liked it
The main characters are an American man with an Irish name who had a German mother and a female English nurse whose husband was a German physician. Both have already suffered (from past treatment because they were Germans or thought to be spies) when they meet in England during the blitz bombing, and the question is which one of them is possibly a spy. The novel reveals how Germans-or anyone associated with Germans--was treated in the US or England. In England many were deported or exiled and se ...more
Aug 03, 2013 Bev rated it really liked it
This novel, which spans both World Wars, begins in a field hospital on the Eastern front. Kate, a young English woman married to a German surgeon, experiences the horrors of war as she serves as nurse and caretaker to the injured soldiers. She and her husband are taken as spies then escape to live through hard times in post-war Germany. The second part of the story takes place in London during the Blitz. We meet Claus, an ex-pat American making propaganda films for the Allies. He meets Kate, now ...more
Apr 20, 2010 Allyson rated it it was ok
Lofty ambition but it jumps around too much. They fall in love too quickly. It takes too long to discover his history- not till page 100 or so and it all seemed completely fabricated. I know it is fiction but it seemed implausible, like a bad movie script. Disappointing as so much potential and he has a vivid way of describing war zones, feelings of those affected by war, indirectly and directly, but not very satisfying in the end. And shocking to end it so- lame almost. As if he could not be bo ...more
Jul 21, 2010 Pamela rated it it was ok
This was a pretty big dud that failed to live up to the book blurbs & hype. Talk about confusion. I still don't know who did what. But, if the book is supposed to relay the confusion felt trying to determine who is a spy and who is not or what information to give, then it succeeds. Otherwise, there is too much ambiguity; Kate who is English was married for 20 years to a German surgeon but she now lives in England where she regrets that Germany lost WWI; Claus who was an American with a Germa ...more
J. Ewbank
Feb 11, 2013 J. Ewbank rated it liked it
Shelves: a-good-read, novel
This book by Paul Griner was a powerful one in many respects. It reminded and indeed, told me more about Worle War II and its results and tragedies in Engand than I remembered. How they survived is almost a miracle in itself. In the midst of all the bombings two people came together with their past histories and created one of their own. We know much more about her background before the meeting. It was ineresting reading though it was not one that left you happy because of the materal it was cov ...more
Mar 04, 2012 Jessica rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I'm entirely disappointed with how the last 50 pages of this story went. When I started to actually tolerate the storyline, the author went and ruined both characters. If I had been the editor, I would have removed pages 1-100 and 250 to 308. I wish, like a DVD, there was an alternate ending option. This book needed one. I would have rather continued reading the schizophrenic outbursts of eating live horses and pissing in the mouths of dead bodies like the first 100 pages, then read about a cry ...more
Jul 22, 2014 Elizabeth rated it it was ok
Confusing character backgrounds and spy networking
Jan 25, 2016 Monica rated it liked it
Good story, good writing, not so good ending.
Cheryl Killingsworth
Sep 22, 2014 Cheryl Killingsworth rated it it was amazing
Shelves: extraordinary
Blew me away!!!!
Nov 26, 2015 Sandra rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Colette Guerin
It jumped around too much for my liking and Kate's timing, considering her life experiences and purported age when she met Claus just seemed all off. Inconsistencies like these bother me. The movie making didn't seem to work well into the story line. Horst the first beloved husband becomes a forgotten man. I don't like being introduced into characters lives and not feel fully engaged. I think he had a great basic story line to work with and it just got to divided up for me and failed.
Aug 30, 2013 Melinda rated it did not like it
I did not enjoy this book. I found it very confusing and I was never sure what was going on. Maybe I needed more background into V-1's and spying during WWII. I thought it was poorly written and didn't leave me feeling anything for the characters. Half the time I didn't even know who Claus/Charles was referring to with Madge, Herbert, and many other people involved in his life. I have read a plethora of books on WWII and this was not one I cared for and wouldn't recommend reading.
Jun 28, 2013 Vivian rated it really liked it
Excellent book. Not the ending I expected to be sure, however, it was a good one. I liked the way the author wrote the book in two parts--WWI and WWII. I was a little confused at the beginning of the second part as it took a bit before "the German woman" appeared. The author really plays tricks with the readers' loyalties as one can sympathize with the Germans and some points and the English at other points. Thought provoking and interesting.
Apr 29, 2012 Sandi rated it liked it
Very interesting to read of a person who was relatively young during both the first and the second world wars. The details of life in bombed London was eye opening to experience their day to day lives with constant fear until it became mundane. The message that there shouldn't be borders to countries was pertinent. Who really is the enemy and how do you deal with the enemy changing all the time? a thought provoking read.
Christine Blythe
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 28, 2012 Erin rated it really liked it
This book tells the tale of an English woman who marries a German and finds her nationality and loyalties question throughout World War I and II. I really like the first part of the book, dealing with the aftermath of WWI from the German perspective. The second section, set during the Blitz, seems disjointed. It's almost like 2 books in one, which could be oft-putting to some. Both stories do seem unfinished and unresolved.
Jun 25, 2010 Stephanie rated it liked it
Not exactly light and fluffy summer reading, but hey, it was about WWII, what did I expect?! Well researched, especially the descriptions of London during the intense Nazi bombings before the Normandy invasion. This isn't a fun read, and if you like a standard Hollywood happy ending, you'd best pass this one by. If, however, you are interested in historical fiction and like a bit of realism, then you won't be disappointed.
Oct 04, 2011 Lavon rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book started out great. The writer has a very descriptive style that could really make me picture the horrible circumstances of the main characters. The first part of the book was set in WWI and was fantastic. The second part of the book was set in WWII and was good, but I found it a bit confusing and hard to follow. So in the end I was disappointed by a book that got off to such a great start.
Griner did a wonderful of evoking the atmosphere of war-torn Europe, complete with the unsettling sights, sounds, and smells.

He also managed to capture the paranoia and uncertainty of war time, torn loyalties and brash jingoism, the touching moments of shared humanity alongside the utter lack of fellow feeling.

I'm just not sure that I understood what happened in the last ten pages.
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