The Blindness of the Heart
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating

The Blindness of the Heart

3.35 of 5 stars 3.35  ·  rating details  ·  813 ratings  ·  126 reviews
Amid the chaos of civilians fleeing West in a provincial German railway station in 1945 Helene has brought her seven-year-old son. Having survived with him through the horrors and deprivations of the war years, she abandons him on the station platform and never returns. Many years earlier, Helene and her sister Martha's childhood in rural Germany is abruptly ended by the o...more
Kindle Edition, 416 pages
Published (first published 2007)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Blindness of the Heart, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Blindness of the Heart

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,022)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
K.D. Absolutely
May 14, 2012 K.D. Absolutely rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Book You Must Read Before You Die (2010)
The author, German novelist Julia Franck (born 1970) was 39 years old when this book, The Blind Side of the Heart was first published in German language. Its milieu is Germany in between the two world wars and I could not help but be amazed how intricate Franck was able to weave her story considering that she was not born yet at that time. It was the same awe that I had, almost a decade ago, while reading Birdsong: A Novel of Love and War about French trench warfare when its author, Sebastian Fa...more
Amy
Translated from the German by Anthea Bell

Winner of the German Book Prize

Most novels that explore the events of the Holocaust focus on the ‘Before’ and ‘After’-showing the events chronologically and the resulting impact. However, The Blindness of the Heart takes a reverse approach and begins by revealing a disturbing ‘After’: a young woman abandons her young son at a train station and disappears. We see how they’ve lived in horror for months, but his abandonment is still shocking. Then the author...more
Jill
In the original German version, so I’ve been told, the title of this book is Die Mittagsfrau, or “The Noonday Witch”. According to legend, the witch appears in the heat of day to spirit away children from their distracted parents. Those who are able to engage the witch in a short conversation find that her witch-like powers evaporate.

In Julia Franck’s brilliant English version (translated by the very talented Anthea Bell), Helene gradually retreats into silence and passivity, losing her ability...more
Friederike Knabe
Julia Franck's novel, DIE MITTAGSFRAU, published in English under the title "Blindness of the Heart: A Novel" starts dramatically with a Prologue in which a young mother leaves her seven-year old son at a remote railway station in eastern Germany and disappears... The time is 1945, the war has ended and the two have to flee west ahead of Soviet troops taking over the city. The author, captivated by her own father's childhood trauma, took the search for possible explanations for her grandmother's...more
Scott
I read through some of the reviews for this book. I'm always amazed at what some readers think. Books, clearly, touch us in different ways. This book has been described as disturbing, haunting, and shocking. It is all of those and more. What moved me about this book was the evolution of the character Helene as she changed in response to tragic events, how she moves from a bright, energetic, ambitious girl to a cold, distant, lonely, cruel, burdened mother. The contrast between the girl's outlook...more
Sophiene
Everyone seems to love this book. It's being compared with Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, but I don't see it. The story was gripping, but I didn't like any of the characters, not even the little boy. I couldn't care less about this woman and I was angry that she repeated her own mother's faults. I did finish it because it was for my bookclub, but if it wasn't for that I wouldn't have finished it.
I really don't mind drama in a book, terrible things happen, but I at least want to sympathize wit...more
Julie
4 1/2 stars. Very good book; at times somewhat wordy, but that could be due to the German-to-English translation. In a crowded train station in 1945, as throngs of Germans flee to the West, Helene tells her seven-year-old son to sit on a bench and wait while she goes to the bathroom, but she never returns. There begins the unsettling question of what sort of circumstances could lead a mother to abandon her son. The answer is as much historical as it is psychological. From her childhood in a smal...more
Fruchtfleisch
Die Mittagsfrau ist eines jener Bücher, vor denen ich mich ganz lang gedrückt habe, mich störte der Hype um das Buch und vor allem um die Autorin.

Tatsächlich kann ich nicht genau beschreiben, was an dem Buch so gut funktioniert, aber ich konnte es immer kaum erwarten, weiterlesen zu können.

Wer es lesen will, sollte übrigens unbedingt NICHT den Klappentext lesen, da wird nämlich etwas ganz Wesentliches verraten.

Zum Inhalt schweige ich mich hier aus, da man ihn allüberall nachlesen kann, in Tausen...more
Lisa Hayden Espenschade
Mar 18, 2011 Lisa Hayden Espenschade rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: readers who like existential novels with historical backdrops
Recommended to Lisa by: Amy of The Black Sheep Dances
The Blindness of the Heart is a dark novel that begins with a woman abandoning her young son then backtracks to show how life has rendered her unable to care for her son, even as she treats patients, as nurse. Franck sets the book from World War 1 through the end of World War 2, establishing parallels between societal breakdowns and personal problems. The book is filled with pain and abandonment of all sorts and says a lot about the human condition; I'm glad I read the book in small installments...more
Kim
I found this was a really slow book; after the 'prologue', which was actually a scene from the end of the story, it then took time to really get going. It largely tells the story of sisters Martha and Helene, especially the latter younger sister, as they are brought up in Germany during the period of the two World Wars. They virtually have to care for themselves after their father goes off to fight in WW1 and comes back seriously injured; their mother meanwhile goes gradually insane. Eventually...more
Robyn Markow
I'm sorry but this book was v. depressing as well as creepy. A woman abandons her little boy at the train station? It pretty much lost me there & went steadily downhill after that! Btw,I've read plenty of WW2 novels from the Average German Viewpoint so it wasn't that("Stones From The River" being one example) but that book had sympathetic characters in it & wasn't so "Sturm Und Drang". I'm sure there are people out there will like this book,but I couldn't get past the 1st two chapters.(...more
Monica Carter
Wilhelm interrupted her, tapping the boy on the back of the neck. Don't cry,Peter. And remember this, men are there to kill and women are there to heal their wounds. Peter tilted his head back and looked up to his father. Perhaps there was a smile? But no, his father's gaze was serious.


Chilling, disturbing, compelling, brutal, sensual, imaginative, unromantic, epic, saga - all of these words describe The Blindness in the Heart. This title was put on the longlist for Best Translated Book Award...more
Angharad
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jos
Voor een keer een oorlogsepos dat je over de twee wereldoorlogen tilt en de periode ertussen vanuit het standpunt van een Duitse vrouw. Wat brengt een moeder ertoe je kind achter te laten in overvol treinstation ergens in het midden van nergens. Het verhaal begint bij aanvang van de eerste wereldoorlog waar een zwakke joodse vader terug dienst neemt als officier in het lokale regiment. De dochters blijven achter met en zenuwzieke moeder, die mittagsfrau, en proberen te overleven door hun kleine...more
Naomi
I thought this was an amazing book--about two sisters in Germany, beginning around the time of WWI and ending after WWII. The sisters, daughters of a mentally ill Jewish mother and a German father, move to Berlin to follow their dreams, and find everything but. I felt like I got a glimpse into German society and culture that I had never seen before--to a point where I could almost feel the momentum from which Hitler emerged. The characters were so complex, that I find myself still trying to unde...more
Daisy
Nov 29, 2011 Daisy rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Daisy by: Amy Henry's shelf
Shelves: germany, mushrooms
Parenthesized (is that a word?) by prologue and epilogue of a young boy's connection to his mother, is the story of a girl/young woman during the early part of the 20th Century in and around Berlin. It covers two wars and the liberal era in the '20s and early '30s.

When I started the book, I asked myself to predict what the would title mean. Loving without seeing, loving to distraction, unable to not-love? Or closing off the heart and preventing love, avoiding it? Or both? Or more?

Thanks to Iren...more
Reni
Ja natürlich ist das ein grausames Buch. Es schildert den Lebensweg einer Frau, die so gebrochen ist, dass sie ihren kleinen Sohn aussetzt (auch wenn sie sich einredet dabei dem Sohn Gutes zu tun, doch eigentlich nur, um sich selbst zu bestrafen?). Was daran langatmig sein soll? Es ist unheimlich detailliert geschrieben, präzise, so klinisch, dass es einen fast schon ekelt. Da ist kein Moment in dieser erdachten Biographie, den man auslassen sollte. Am Ende ging es mir beinahe zu hastig. Daher 4...more
Carol
very compelling book, translated from the German, not for the faint of heart. Some very difficult scenes. It covers the time from the end of WWI until the early 1950's in Germany. Those folks went through some really impossibly difficult experiences. I liked it, but can't quite say why. I alternatively loved the main character, Helene, and then was exasperated by her stolid acceptance of the way she was being treated by her jerk of a husband. Read it yourself, it's worth the time.
Donna
well i have finished it. thats the most positive i can be about it i am afraid. I found it slow and quite a cold read. There is such a sense of loss and detachment that runs through the whole book. All the characters portray a want / need that they cant nor wont allow others to fill. i just felt that although the timing of the story made it worse the characters just needed a huge kick to get them going and nothing ever did. all in all i am glad its over!
Mary
Am Anfang hat mich total verwirrt, dass Franck einfach keine Anführungszeichen benutzt, aber später war das eines der besten Dinge des Buchs.
So viele zwar im Text versteckte, aber trotzdem so klare Hinweise auf Charakterzüge der Protagonistin und den anderen Figuten, die einfach so schön verpackt sind. Das Buch ist sehr lesenswert, wunderbar grausam und ehrlich, und ein klasse Ende.
Ellen
A beautiful, haunting book of a young German woman leading up to and during WWII. The psychological damage she experiences in childhood leaves her with few options as she navigates her life through an extremely disturbing period of the twentieth century.
Gudrun
Sehr düster, nicht fertiggelesen, gut erzählt, aber zuviele unglückliche und schreckliche Dinge im Leben dieser Frau, vor allem in der Kindheit, aber auch ihr zweiter Mann.
Connie
Excellent. Found this book to be very "Nordic" In my opinion, it was dark, grim and pessimistic but absolutely mesmerizing at the same time. Reminded me of Berman films.
Amanda
I got about 250-300 pages in, and realized I just didn't care about the characters or plot. I very rarely decide not to finish a book, but this one of them. I don't recommend.
Sandra
Spellbinding book about the German interwar period, women, drugs, mother-child relationships, Judaism, homosexuality and more ...

A great read!!
Kristel
The story of a young woman in Germany from WWI to after WWII. Helena is the youngest daughter of a Jewish mother and German father and tells the story of how Helena survived Fascist Germany and multigenerational trauma. This is not another Holocaust survival story. Helena is raised protestant. She and her sister study to be trained nurses. This book examines the decadence of the twenties and the fall of Germany's economy and the forces of the political climate. There is a great deal of drugs and...more
Becky
It was interesting to read this so soon after The Kindly Ones. It mostly deals with an earlier time in history, though the two overlap quite strikingly at the end. The tale is of Helene, who leaves her young son at a railway station as they flee from the advancing Russians at the end of World War II, and the life that brought her to that moment. Born to a depressed or bipolar mother with Jewish roots just before the First World War, Helene and her sister are forced to grow up quickly when their...more
Joyce
"I'm having a hard time rating the book 'The Blindness of the Heart' by Julia Franck. I didn't finish it because the writing style was very difficult for me and I finally decided to put it aside without finishing it. However, I did think it had a fascinating plot and that's what kept me going as long as I did. It was originally written in German and I think the translation from German to English may be part of the problem with the writing style. There are no quotation marks for what a person is...more
Kristina Godfrey
ooh, this book is heartbreakingly painful to read at times....but soooo worth it. Has to be one of the best books I've read in the past decade! Even for a World War II history buff....

It begins with a Berlin mother, Alice, abandoning her 7-year-old son at the train station with directions to his uncle's house. It is post-war Berlin and she feel incapable of caring of herself and her boy. Not until the end of the book does its title become clear in an aha! moment. By then I was crying at the conc...more
Karl
A novel full of passion for life for living for loving - wanting for love...that bares to the skin and the bone some of the realities and shortcomings of people and on-that effort! Having some remote connection with the past global conflicts she tell's us, as nearly all of us do, we miss seeing and hearing our loved ones, we miss touching and at times we touch with the cutting edge of our heart. The story that Julia Franck has given us is perhaps the story of women... How women endure - and Endu...more
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 67 68 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Kieron Smith, Boy
  • The Book About Blanche and Marie
  • Cost
  • In Times of Fading Light: A Novel
  • Transit
  • The German Lesson
  • The Oppermanns
  • The Invention of Curried Sausage
  • The Hunger Angel
  • Jakob the Liar
  • The Quest for Christa T.
  • La dama número trece
  • Der Turm: Geschichte aus einem versunkenen Land
  • Het lot van de familie Meijer
  • Transgression: A Novel of Love and War
  • Gifts of War
  • Green Henry
  • Visitation
Rücken an Rücken Liebediener Lagerfeuer Bauchlandung Der neue Koch

Share This Book