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Children and Fire (Burgdorf Cycle #4)

3.58  ·  Rating details ·  1,300 Ratings  ·  271 Reviews
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 transform the lives of the townspeople. At th
Audio CD, 0 pages
Published May 25th 2011 by Tantor Media (first published 2011)
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Susan Katz
Jul 26, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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 06, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 24, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 08, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 28, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Nov 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
May 08, 2012 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
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.
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.
Carol Hunter
Feb 23, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Lauren Grossman
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."
Bryan Pope
Unsettling novel about the Third Reich and how even the most well-meaning people can allow evil to take hold.
"That was but a prelude; where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people also." Heinrich Heine

Books selected for Oprah's Book Club are not supposed to be ones that wind up having a profound impact on one's soul, but that's exactly what happened to mine when O named Ursula Hegi's Stones from the River as one of her 1997 selections.

For me personally, February 1997 was a bit of a challenging time (we were in Infertility Hell). So it's a bit of an understatement to say that I related to and
Paulette Ponte
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ursula Hegi has a wonderful way of describing life in Germany during the time of Hitler. She relates to the German population and their lack of understanding about what was going on in the background of Hitler's mania. She doesn't make excuses but gives us some insight into how scary it must have been for the Jews and those who cared about them.
Faye T. Stanley
Nov 15, 2017 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Waste of time

Endless descriptions led to no real conclusions. Jumping across time periods for no reason. Just a jumble of characters with no unifying theme or point. Hours out of my life that I can never recover.
Jan Prucnal
2.5 *** The premise of the book was a good one- that of a day changing one's life. Events in Germany, mid 1930's, shaped the characters, which were well- developed.
That said, I had to struggle to finish this book; the story became disjoined and confusing.
Sep 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorite-author
Really wonderful! Hadn't read her in years
May 25, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It's hard for any book to reckon with the collective guilt of a nation.
Friederike Knabe
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
Laurel Deloria
Jan 02, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Mesmerizing, thoughtful, frightening wonderful.
Amazon says"The fourth novel in Ursula Hegi’s acclaimed Burgdorf cycle is “a thoughtful, sidelong approach to the worst moment in Germany’s history that invites us to understand how decent people come to collaborate with evil” (Kirkus Reviews).

Children and Fire tells the story of one day that will forever transform the lives of the people in Burgdorf, Germany, the fictitious village by the river in Ursula Hegi’s bestselling novels. February 27, 193
Jan 06, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 26, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A slow-moving, but ultimately satisfying, read that moved me even though I knew what was coming. The book is set in the years before World War II, in Germany, when Hitler has come to power and the Reichstag has burned. Thekla Jansen, a teacher, thinks she can help her students (all boys) live ordinary (and somewhat innocent) lives despite the tense (but not quite yet terrifying) world that surrounds them.

Favorite lines:

But they don't budge. Their sudden scorn is so palpable that, any moment now,
Feb 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Julie Smith (Knitting and Sundries)
This review first appeared on my blog:

In Hitler's Germany of 1934, Thekla Jansen is a 34-year-old teacher, having unexpectedly replaced her old teacher and friend, Fraulein Siderova, a Russian Jew who converted to Catholicism upon her family's arrival in Germany some years ago. Her conversion, however, didn't keep the school from letting her go due to her Jewish roots.

Interspersed with flashbacks from Thekla's life, where her mother Almut, originally in a
Aug 30, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 14, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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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
“The absence of doubt will turn humans into beasts.” 4 likes
“He didn't know how to speak properly, how to walk properly, how to comb his hair, and she felt embarrassed for him as he shouted about restoring jobs and national honor, about a better and splendid Germany. The mob applauded, shouted. Did people really believe that he wanted what was best for Germany?” 0 likes
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