Jennifer's Reviews > Hitler's Niece

Hitler's Niece by Ron Hansen
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Jun 26, 2012

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bookshelves: historical-fiction
Read from June 26 to August 03, 2012

I was fascinated to learn about Geli, who apparently played a large part in the life of Hitler yet remains a very small persona in the large history of Adolf Hitler. It was difficult to get into the book; it seemed as if the book couldn't decide whether it wanted to be fiction or non-fiction. The writing was clumsy, and it didn't get terribly interesting until a bit into the book. Hansen eventually found the flow, though, and the writing and narrative grew more fluid as the action progressed. As is always the problem with historical fiction pieces such as this one, it is frustrating trying to pick out what an actual recorded occurrence or statement and what was fictitious creativity. In the end, I probably would have preferred reading a non-fiction work, but with the controversy and mystery surrounding Geli's death, a fictional piece had the luxury of picking a side and following it through to its creepy conclusion.
The fictionalization of Hitler in this novel was interesting to say the least. He was repeatedly described as "whining" and childish, which was difficult to reconcile with the volume and anger of the Hitler I see in other areas. I am not sure how convinced I was by the portrayal, as I didn't feel that Hitler's peevish side was successfully linked to the public persona that the world pictures his as today.
Overall, I was glad to know more about this somewhat hidden part of history, but the characters were not consistent (even in their inconsistencies), and the writing seemed too unsure of its status in the Dewey Decimal System.

Warning: spoilers below.
This Hitler creeped me the eff out. His grotesque pursuit of his much younger niece and his eventual sexual domineering of her were so disgusting and repulsing that if I never knew the meaning of having my "skin crawl" before, I definitely know now. The description of a naked Hitler with "tan teeth" jerking off while subjugating Geli was perverse and disturbing.
I had a distinctly hard time understanding the character of Geli as portrayed in this book. She was an intelligent, bright, and clever girl by all accounts, so I don't see how she could go through fits of jealousy over Hitler's attentions to other girls while he overshadowed every part of her life and often left her feeling violated. She kept wondering if he would ever marry her, wondered about whether he loved her or not, and even thought about doing sexual things with him after he had done disturbing things and betrayed her trust by showing naked pictures of her to all of his comrades.
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