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The main problem I had with this book is the ?talking head? tack that it takes. Very little is it is straight dialogue. While the view of life during the Nazi era are laid out in convincing words, the lack of what might be called proper ?scenes? or ?drama? gets enervating to read. You are reading other people?s accounts of what happened in the past and thus the long tracts of this comes off like a history lesson, even if the human element is included.
However, the clarity of the writing and the unflinching look at civilian behavior makes this a poignant and ultimately human story.
As the story of one woman?s life, a woman who startles by her desire for life and her lack of remorse in enjoying herself, we are treated to the feelings, thoughts, opinions and observations of those who knew her. The author created the woman, Leni Pfeiffer née Gruyten, to be reticent and taciturn so that the reader is forced to make his assessments of her character mainly through the viewpoints of others. It is not an unknown conceit; Bram Stoker did much the same thing with his legendary creation, Dracula. Like that horror novel, Böll not only shows us a glimpse of Leni?s character but a broad panorama of a nation in flux and a world at war.
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