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Children and Fire (Burgdorf Cycle #4)

3.57  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,195 Ratings  ·  254 Reviews
The fourth novel in the Burgdorf Cycle

Though more than fifteen years have passed since Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River captivated critics and readers alike, it retains its popularity, is on academic reading lists, and continues to be adopted by book groups.

Also set in Burgdorf, Germany, Hegi’s Children and Fire tells the story of a single day that will forever transf
Hardcover, 272 pages
Published May 24th 2011 by Scribner (first published 2011)
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Stones from the River by Ursula HegiIntrusions by Ursula HegiFloating in My Mother's Palm by Ursula HegiUrsula Hegi The Burgdorf Cycle Boxed Set by Ursula HegiSalt Dancers by Ursula Hegi
Best of Ursula Hegi
9th out of 15 books — 2 voters
Knight of Flame by Scott EderHarry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. RowlingGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellWatership Down by Richard AdamsCatching Fire by Suzanne Collins
Earth, Wind and Fire
368th out of 594 books — 97 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Susan Katz
Jul 26, 2011 Susan Katz rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-fiction
This book has inspired me to immediately seek out the rest of Hegi's Burgdorf cycle. I'd read and loved Stones from the River, and when I read a review of this book set in the same small German village in the first half of the twentieth century, a companion book to Stones, I got hold of it immediately. Characters who in the first book were minor here spring to full life. Wilhelm Jansen, the shell-shocked veteran, reveals here his earlier history, his marriage to a pregnant woman and the fate of ...more
Jan 11, 2012 J.Elle rated it it was ok
Oh, Ursula Hegi, I so want to like your books, but, for some reason, I just can’t. You are firmly in the two star category for me: Stones from the River. Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m lacking in some way? NAH. :) I think my real opinion is that everything is just too drawn out and too much time is spent on everything, as if the premise of the writing is, “why explain something in a paragraph when I can turn it into a whole chapter?” And people, therein lies one of the main reasons I read so much youn ...more
Oct 09, 2011 Jill rated it really liked it
With the luxury of time, we look back and ask ourselves: how did so many educated and cultured people become manipulated by a madman – Hitler—to justify torture and genocide?

The answers we come up with are all too often dismissive and simplistic – a good vs. evil dichotomy. In reality, the answer is far more nuanced, and Ursula Hegi captures how a surge of national unity goes so very wrong and how the absence of complexity or doubt can lead even good people astray.

Set in Burgdorf, Germany, a tea
Oct 25, 2013 Fergie rated it really liked it
My only complaint with this book (if it can be called that) was that I didn't want the book to end. It left me craving to know what happened next. Ursula Hegi has earned her place as my favorite modern day writer. I've read all of her novels and have yet to be disappointed. In my opinion, Stones From The River (the first book of this series) is one of the greatest novels ever written. No one weaves a story like Hegi and pulls the reader into the past, making the stories relevant and timely while ...more
Jun 14, 2011 Chrissie rated it liked it
Shelves: germany, hf, kindle

Through Chapter Two and a little more: Yesterday I finished the marvellous memoir A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan by Netofer Pazira. I gave it five stars, but having just finished a memoir, I wanted a novel. But which? I had read all of the books loaded into my Kindle! Since I am so picky about how an author writes, I checked my GR list of books that are available on Kindle, deciding to sample a few until I found one I could not put down. I found it - Ursula Hegi'
May 28, 2011 Nancy rated it really liked it
This is my first experience with this author and it was incredible. She paints pictures with her words, one brush stroke at a time. Concisely and clearly, she reveals the conflict and the shocking resolution, which - as a reader, you know that shortly after this day World War II will begin.

The book is many stories twisting together and introducing different characters. The main protagonist is Thekla, a German teacher who has finally secured a position in a Catholic school. The day is in 1934. Th
Aug 02, 2011 Linda rated it really liked it
In Children and Fire, Hegi revisits the German town that was the setting for her earlier novel, Stones From the River. The era is the early twentieth century, post WWI, pre WWII, as Hitler and the Third Reich are changing the German political and social landscape as they rise to power. Hegi's theme, in both this book and "Stones" is the exploration of how it could have happened. I always wondered how good, kind, ordinary German citizens allowed the rantings of a madman to sway their good sense a ...more
Sep 02, 2011 Meredith rated it really liked it
I listened to this one read by the author. She did a beautiful job, and her voice and accent were so soft and melodious, it really made the words "come to life," though I know that is cliche.

I read Stones from the River many years ago for book club, and when I read the review of this book, which takes place in the same town but among different inhabitants, I knew it was a world I wanted to explore again. It is pre-WWII Germany in a small town, which means everyone has secrets and they are all di
Aug 06, 2011 Cynthia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: people who like good books
So you are sick to death of reading about the Holocaust?

Please just be quiet and read this book. Oh, but read "Stones from the River" first.

Better now?

(Page 69)"What the parishioners and the priest didn't know was that the Siderovas distrusted the ritual of confession. They seemed so devout as they knelt in the dim confessional. But all they fed the priest were made-up sins because they suspected all priests disturbed the garden of secrets by tearing at the roots."

(Page 165)"Exercising for the F
Dec 03, 2011 Kimberly rated it really liked it
This is a must read for any Ursula Hegi fan. Set in Burgdorf, Germany, a popular setting for several of her books, Children and Fire tells the story of a single day that forever transforms the lives of the townspeople. The book explores the reactions of the German citizens to Hitler's rise to power one year following the Reichstag fire. Hegi masterfully weaves past and present events in order to explain the motives of her characters. Although this novel revisits a common place and theme for Hegi ...more
Jul 21, 2012 Kathy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a brilliant book about...moral choice, love, secrets, self knowledge. And more. Set on one day in Germany (February 27, 1934) in Burgsdorf, Hegi's village of the other books in this series (Stories from the River, Floating in My Mother's Palm, The Vision of Emma Blau) this novel is astonishing in the absolute rightness of each word.

That doesn't even begin to say how good this book is.

I received this as a Good Reads First Reads win (and there was some delay in receiving it from the publis
Carol Hunter
Feb 23, 2012 Carol Hunter rated it really liked it
I am impressed by Hegi's skill in showing how a gifted compassionate teacher could let each silent agreement with an oppressive regime hurt her students and her. After living in Germany, I still haven't understood how people I liked could do such awful things. This impressive writer has helped me understand. I have been concerned that our country's extreme swing to the right could result in a situation like Nazi Germany and, after reading this, I am more convinced it is possible in the U.S.
Jul 27, 2014 Michale rated it liked it
It was nice to be back in Burgdorf, but I feel that Hegi only began to explore the possibilities of the character of Thekla Jansen, as compared with that of Trudi Montag in her earlier works. Chilling descriptions of Germany in 1934, already robustly beginning to follow Nazism and venerate Hitler. The denouement at the end should come as no surprise, but the story does provide an interesting platform for a discussion of what makes up any individual's true identity.
Jun 26, 2012 Suzanne rated it it was ok
I really liked Ursula Hegi's first book, Stones in the River, which I'd read a couple of years ago. However, this newest book was confusing and difficult to follow. It switches back and forth in time frames and, for me, nothing was ever very clear. Also, there's a non-too-surprising climax at the end which I'd figured out (as would most readers) way before it was put into words. All in all, disappointing.
Lauren Grossman
Oct 02, 2012 Lauren Grossman rated it liked it
I have read most of Ursela Hegi's novels and I love her writing style. But, I have to admit that I was disappointed by this read. It felt very fragmented to me.
I will continue to read her books, but this was not one I would highly recommend.
Her best was unquestionably "Stones from teh River."
Donna Brown
May 10, 2014 Donna Brown rated it it was amazing
This book gives the best description I've ever read of how normal, well-meaning people were drawn into the horror of Hitler's Third Reich. Even more so it sheds clarity on the creeping misgivings of a patriotic German teacher who senses that her country is going off the rails and her beloved boy students are bound for the horror of another world war, the first one of which stole much of her father's mind.

I'm not going to divulge more of the plot. Though this is no mystery, there are serious stor
May 04, 2014 Heidi rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club
This book was a solid 4 stars for me. Hegi's writing style is insightful and concise - she tells a full story without excess writing. I enjoyed the insights into the mind of an effective teacher, as provided by the main character, Thekla, who intends to shepherd her students through the early days of Hitler's regime. The time swapping between the one day, February 27, 1934 and Thekla's background, or should I say her Ahnenpass, her background and heritage, literally, her 'ancestor passport' kept ...more
Sue Myers
Jan 24, 2016 Sue Myers rated it really liked it
Novel is about one day in the life of a teacher of 4th grade boys in 1934 in Germany. Family secrets, tragedy and how one's ethical beliefs can change when one gives up a few freedoms in the hope that things will work out in the long run. At times this book was difficult to follow because I was not sure who was talking. Constant changing of scene between earlier years and 1934. The description of how Nazi propaganda caused people not to correct lies and to accept everything that was put forth by ...more
Jun 13, 2015 Christina rated it really liked it
So, as the book jacket tells us, it has been 15 years since "Stones From the River" was published (and actually several years longer since the very first book in the series, the short story collection "Floating in My Mother's Palm" technically started the Burgdorf cycle). Fifteen plus years is a long time to have lived with the same set of characters, those who, by the nature of the time period you chosen to focus on, have a definite life span. Hence Hegi makes an interesting turn by choosing to ...more
Dec 21, 2015 Beena rated it liked it
It took me a bit of an effort to get into the story, but it was truly worth it. The time travel between the past and the current day of February 27, 1934, was a bit confusing at first, but after the first few chapters, I was mesmerized. It is a very well-written book, thoughtful, disturbing, and thought-provoking, all at once. I was amazed at the level of research Hegi must have done to learn about that period and that region of the country. I didn’t know much more than the broad details about t ...more
Nov 12, 2014 Elise rated it really liked it
“When the white man turns tyrant, it is his own freedom that he destroys.”
― George Orwell, "Shooting an Elephant"

Is it possible to separate the personal from the political, or is the political always personal? If we go against our conscience in support of the status quo, what are the consequences, the personal costs? In this beautifully written story that takes place in Germany during the years leading up to WWII, Hegi raises these important questions. She successfully brings to life a world wh
Debra S
Aug 18, 2012 Debra S rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This was a Goodreads first read book. As always thanks to the publisher for providing copies through this program

Hegi has written a tale of life during the early Nazi regime in a small German town. Thekla, a young teacher who idolizes her mentor, it torn between her duty to her boys and her desire to survive. Her mentor, Sonja, has been set aside by the local school due to her Jewish ancestry. During this one day, Thekla learns that she also is of Jewish ancestry and must let go her desire to me
Friederike Knabe
Jun 22, 2011 Friederike Knabe rated it liked it
In her new novel, "Children and Fire", Ursula Hegi tells the story of Thekla Jansen, a teacher in the fictional German village of Burgdorf, familiar to readers of the author's previous novels. Taking for the most part the perspective of her heroine, Hegi explores, from the inside out so to say, the emotional confusion and moral dilemmas that Germans were confronting with the Nazis' rise to power. The author sets the stage effectively, and while alluding to pivotal historical events, she focuses ...more
Aug 30, 2011 Karen rated it it was amazing
This is the first of Hegi's book that I've read in spite of being intrigued by the reviews years ago of her book Stones from the River. I have many German friends, nearly all of whom were born and raised in Germany, coming to this country as teenagers when their parents emigrated from Germany or as adults, having married an American, although one of my friends, now in her 80's, joined the Wehrmacht at age 16, at the end of the war, when clearly all was lost for Germany. The younger friends, now ...more
OCLS Staff Picks
Aug 02, 2013 OCLS Staff Picks rated it liked it
This story takes place in a small town in Germany one year after the burning of Berlin’s Parliament building. Hitler’s regime is still in its early stages and the citizens of the town are divided about the ethics of the new government. Thekla Jansen is the teacher of a class of boys growing up in the new Germany. Many of the boys want to join the Hitler-Jugend and Thekla is unsure whether protecting them means encouraging or dissuading their interest.

This novel is primarily an exploration of sel
Oct 05, 2011 Melissa rated it it was ok
When I initially read about this book I was very excited to pick this one up, as this subject matter is of interest to me. However...this book isn't very long and yet I am not even halfway through after nearly a week. The narrative just isn't grabbing me at all, the story feels all over the place and at times I am unsure of which story line I am being tossed into as there are several things going on at once with no notice. I will continue reading and try to pull something positive out of this bo ...more
Heather Doherty
Aug 31, 2011 Heather Doherty rated it liked it
For now I'm giving this book only 3 stars. I snatched it from the new releases shelf at the library without reading the jacket because Hegi's Stones from the River is one of my favorite books. I am not quite sure how I feel about this book. It was powerful and disturbing, the writing was beautiful, but something was missing. The story takes place in the same small town in Germany where "Stones" is set but a few years earlier, well before WWII, when Hitler was newly in power. The main narrative s ...more
Apr 08, 2012 Kristina rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: women, teachers, students
Recommended to Kristina by: self recommended/Hegi fan
Children and Fire is a beautifully written story that ties in very well with Ursula Hegi's other Burgdorf series. Hegi has such a masterful grip on the ability to give voice to inner thought life of each and every one of her characters that it's mesmerizing. She gives words to emotions and experiences that can seem to sacred or painful for spoken language to suffice..."God's will" she had been consoled three times, "while she dreamed of strangling God. Three times she imagined yanking God from H ...more
Cecelia Hightower
(Betty) Children and Fire by Ursula Hegi. Very interesting story about a young teacher in a small village in Germany at the beginning months of the War, and the attention to the
formation of the German Youth Groups. It intertwines the tales of the residents from young to old, Jewish families and non - Jewish familes, the relationships of the neighborhood, and the teacher's ten year old boys in her class. She tells about their relationship to each other and to their families and her relationship
Jul 05, 2011 Carl rated it really liked it
I may be one of the few who read this without having read any of her previous books (altho Stones has been on my mental to-read list since before Oprah named it one of her recommendations), but there it was on the New Books shelf of our little library...

Do we need another book about how ordinary Germans were swept up by Nazi hysteria (or chose to be, rather than get swept away)? Maybe not, but this was well done, and seemed to capture the feelings of ordinary people. Of course, there is much mor
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Ursula Hegi is the author of Sacred Time, Hotel of the Saints, The Vision of Emma Blau, Tearing the Silence, Salt Dancers, Stones from the River, Floating in My Mother's Palm, Unearned Pleasures and Other Stories, Intrusions, and Trudi & Pia. She is the recipient of more than thirty grants and awards.
More about Ursula Hegi...

Other Books in the Series

Burgdorf Cycle (4 books)
  • Stones from the River
  • Floating in My Mother's Palm
  • The Vision of Emma Blau

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“The absence of doubt will turn humans into beasts.” 3 likes
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