In January 1945, in the waning months of World War II, a small group of people begin the longest journey of their lives: an attempt to cross the remnants of the Third Reich to reach the British and American lines. Among the group is 18-year-old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. There is her lover, Callum Finnella, a young ...
In January 1945, in the waning months of World War II, a small group of people begin the longest journey of their lives: an attempt to cross the remnants of the Third Reich to reach the British and American lines. Among the group is 18-year-old Anna Emmerich, the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. There is her lover, Callum Finnella, a young Scottish prisoner of war who has been brought from the stalag to her family's farm as forced labour. And there is the intriguing Wehrmacht corporal whom the pair know as Manfred - who is, in reality, Uri Singer, a Jew from Germany who managed a daring escape from a train bound for Auschwitz. As they work their way west, they encounter a countryside ravaged by war. Their flight will test both Anna's and Callum's love, as well as their friendship with Manfred - assuming any of them even survive. Skilfully capturing the flesh and blood of history, Bohjalian has crafted a rich tapestry that puts a face on one of the 20th century's greatest tragedies - while creating a masterpiece that will, perhaps, haunt readers for generations.
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This wonderful book was written with the help of a diary of an East Prussian grandmother. It takes place during the final months of WWII in Germany, and is very different from similar novels I have read in the past. Four characters from entirely different walks of life show us diverse perspectives on the Reich, Jews, and war in general. Uri, a German Jew, escapes from a train bound for Auschwitz. Anna, 18, is the daughter of Prussian aristocrats. Callum is a Scottish POW. And Cecile is a young Jew from France.
I felt educated as well as entertained by the lives of these characters and how they responded to being under the thumb of the Third Reich. Anguish, mental and physical; incredulous ignorance; disbelief; guilt; bravery are all here and through it all you understand a little better how the citizens of Europe, especially Germany, were swept up in what was to become one of the greatest tragedies of the 20th century.
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