All too few books about WW2 focus upon how the war impacted upon ordinary Germans. The central focus is instead on those discriminated against or theAll too few books about WW2 focus upon how the war impacted upon ordinary Germans. The central focus is instead on those discriminated against or the partisans, collaborators, spies, i.e. the people NOT like you or I. Here is a book that focuses on the anonymous, unsung participants of the war. Each one of us plays a role, has an effect, and leaves traces. I recommend this book because it speaks of the ordinary people's impact on history. And I am not talking about Hilde's dance with Erwin Rommel. For me, Rommel’s name was put in the title to flag our attention.
Historical events are mentioned so you can follow the flow of the war, but these are not the central point of the book. Instead the author is presenting here, in the guise of a book of historical fiction, the life of her mother Hilde, a German living in East Prussia, close to the then Polish border. Later she moves to Berlin, the Harz Mountains and Hildesheim. She marries and has five children. This is about her life before and through the war years. It is about her family and friends. Her husband, Karl, is a an officer in the German Army serving under the famed German field marshal Erwin Rommel, but it is Hilde who must remain in war-torn Germany. It is her life that is the central focus of this book. The book includes only a smattering of facts about Rommel, where he fought and his death by “suicide”, linked to the conspiracy to assassinate Hitler. The book begins with the “suicide” and then jumps back in time. This may be confusing if you are not already aware of the facts surrounding his death; a bit more detail is added later. I wanted more about Rommel! He is known for his skillful command of desert warfare in the North African Campaign. He is regarded not only as a skilled commander but also a humane one. “He ignored orders to kill Jewish soldiers, civilians and captured commandos.” That is from Wiki; I had to know more since the book gave so little.
The author insists this is a book of historical fiction. So what is fact and what is fiction? There is no author’s note at the end to give clarification. Some of the time flips are confusing. (view spoiler)[ There is an episode in the beginning referring to a beer bottle used as a hot water bottle, followed by a bloody bath scene. What is all that about? Is a miscarriage hinted at? Is a love relationship hinted at? (hide spoiler)] Is this to increase suspense? Is this fact or is it fiction?
There is little humor. All books are improved by humor.
One word about the audiobook narration by Nancy Peterson: lovely! She sounds like Marlene Dietrich. One sees Hilde as a sweet, kind, loving, considerate person. I think she was, and I am referring to the author’s mother, not the fictional character. Actually I would have appreciated a teeny bit more about her shortcomings. Her behavior after the war, after the fifth birth when she totally let her house fall apart, did make her more real to me. I need to know not only about a person’s good characteristics but also the less admirable ones. This makes them human.
What this book does VERY well is show the life of an ordinary German mother during the war. That is reason enough to read this book, and I recommend it.
ETA: I cannot stop thinking about my star rating. I personally did NOT like this book. That isn't to say it is a bad book, but you have to be ready foETA: I cannot stop thinking about my star rating. I personally did NOT like this book. That isn't to say it is a bad book, but you have to be ready for a lot of gossip! I am changing my rating to one star because that is my personal response tot this book. Please read below for a more detailed explanation of the book's content.
While I listened to this audiobook narrated by Carole Boyd I pushed myself to go on. It was that disagreeable….until the end when I was happy I had stuck it out. This book is extremely gossipy. The narration exaggerates this to the point where I could hardly stand it. (Boyd’s French was well executed; I have to praise what I can!) Bertie's life WAS filled with gossip - slander and mistresses and gambling and immoral behavior. He was gossiped about constantly until his death when he was adored. You cannot write a biography of Edward VII, the son of Queen Victoria, without writing about the gossip too. The author’s writing contains tons of gossip, and the narrator is not really at fault when she whispers and draws out sentences, shrieking alternately. The content is gossip and she delivers it in a gossipy manner. But I didn't enjoy it. We are told gossip and then told that probably isn't even true. I was so annoyed I would exclaim, “Then do NOT tell us!” I am wrong because this is what people were saying and the biography should tell us all. The book is clearly very well researched, so I have to give it three stars. No, I didn't enjoy the reading experience, but that is due to my error in choosing an historical figure that would not be to my liking.
What is very interesting is what Edward VII achieved in his reign. He was a political force to contend with, despite the fact that he never gave up his adulterous behavior. The Entente Cordiale was to a large extent of his making.
An additional reason why I had trouble with this book is that Bertie was close-mouthed. He listened. He didn't talk. He never said what he thought so we cannot get inside his head. We can only watch what he does. Neither is this the author's fault.
The double standard of the Victorian Age is extremely evident in this book. This too annoyed ME!
I learned more about Queen Victoria, specifically what she did after the death of her beloved Albert. I highly recommend We Two: Victoria and Albert: Rulers, Partners, Rivals, but it stops with his death and her role as Queen has to be followed to the end to really understand her. On the other hand Ridley's book does little to elucidate why Queen Victoria's personality; in this book there is no discussion of her youth.
If you don't want the emphasis on the gossipy tone of the book, I recommend reading the paper book over listening to the audiobook. I really hated much of the time spent with this audiobook, but in that it is so well researched I am giving it three stars. And the end was extremely interesting, there is history and facts of a more political nature, that is the years when he was king, and when he was free of Queen Victoria. ...more