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The German House: A Novel

The German House: A Novel


The German House: A Novel

valutazioni:
4.5/5 (69 valutazioni)
Lunghezza:
10 ore
Editore:
Pubblicato:
Dec 3, 2019
ISBN:
9780062960252
Formato:
Audiolibro

Descrizione

Set against the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials of 1963, Annette Hess's international bestseller is a harrowing yet ultimately uplifting coming-of-age story about a young female translator—caught between societal and familial expectations and her unique ability to speak truth to power—as she fights to expose the dark truths of her nation's past.

If everything your family told you was a lie, how far would you go to uncover the truth?

For twenty-four-year-old Eva Bruhns, World War II is a foggy childhood memory. At the war's end, Frankfurt was a smoldering ruin, severely damaged by the Allied bombings. But that was two decades ago. Now it is 1963, and the city's streets, once cratered are smooth and paved. Shiny new stores replace scorched rubble. Eager for her wealthy suitor, Jürgen Schoormann, to propose, Eva dreams of starting a new life away from her parents and sister. But Eva's plans are turned upside down when a fiery investigator, David Miller, hires her as a translator for a war crimes trial.

As she becomes more deeply involved in the Frankfurt Trials, Eva begins to question her family's silence on the war and her future. Why do her parents refuse to talk about what happened? What are they hiding? Does she really love Jürgen and will she be happy as a housewife? Though it means going against the wishes of her family and her lover, Eva, propelled by her own conscience , joins a team of fiery prosecutors determined to bring the Nazis to justice—a decision that will help change the present and the past of her nation.

Editore:
Pubblicato:
Dec 3, 2019
ISBN:
9780062960252
Formato:
Audiolibro


Informazioni sull'autore

Annette Hess grew up in Hanover and currently lives in Lower Saxony. She initially studied painting and interior design, and later scenic writing. She worked as a freelance journalist and assistant director, before launching a successful career as a screenwriter.  Her critically-acclaimed and popular television series Weissensee, Ku'damm 56 and Ku'damm 59 are credited with revitalizing German TV. She has received numerous awards from the Grimme Prize to the Frankfurt Prize to the German Television Prize. The German House is her first novel.

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69 valutazioni / 10 Recensioni
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Recensioni dei lettori

  • (4/5)
    I liked it. It wasn't a real WOW... but such a different look at WWII's aftermath.
    Sometimes a bit flat, but it is a translation so maybe that had something to do with it.

    This would be a great book for a discussion! The main character has to face some hard truths- I'm still conflicted.
  • (3/5)
    I was interested to read this book since I wasn't very familiar with the Auschwitz Trials. Though the trials are a key part of this book, the focus was not on the trials so much as on the way Eva's participation as a translator changed her relationships with everyone she held dear.Overall this was an interesting read, but I do have a couple complaints. I couldn't figure out why a whole storyline was devoted to Eva's sister. It seemed unrelated and was just strange. I wasn't a fan of Eva's love story either. What did she see in Jürgen? They seemed really mismatched, couldn't communicate well, and in general didn't seem to enjoy each other's company. I'm not sure how I felt about the ending, either.Thank you BookishFirst for the review copy of this book.
  • (5/5)
    When I first saw this historical fiction book was about the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials of 1963 I knew I had to read it. Even though I have read many historical fiction and nonfiction books about World War 2, I don't often read books that explore the postwar years. The aftermath of the war is something I'm thankful the author deemed worthy of writing about as this was a fascinating read for me.It's 1963 and Eva Bruhns is twenty-four years old and living with her family in Frankfurt. Given her young age during World War 2, she really doesn't have many memories of that time period. She is working as a translator and is hoping her wealthy boyfriend, Jürgen Schoormann, will soon propose marriage. A man named David Miller wants to hire Eva as a translator for an upcoming war crimes trial, and that doesn't sit too well with Jürgen. Eva is horrified at what she learns at the trial and it weighs heavily on her mind.Eva is the main character and heart of the story but you do get the opportunity to get into the minds of the other characters as well. Near the beginning of the book, it was slightly jarring when you would be following one character and then without any warning it just bounced to a different character. This was something I adapted to fairly quickly, however I could see how the disjointed transitions might drive other readers nuts.I felt like there were two parts to the story. You have the trial which goes into detail about the atrocities of the war, and specifically what took place at the Auschwitz concentration camp. But the other compelling part of the story was Eva. I don't want to get into specifics about the plot and get into spoiler territory but I thought the author did a good job showing the attitudes and mindsets of the people in Germany during that time period. I lived in Germany for a few years not that long ago and actually lived not too far from Frankfurt. And I'll admit that might be part of the reason I was so into this story as in my mind I kept thinking about the differences between that time period and now. One of the more interesting things I learned while living there was it is mandatory for Germany students to learn about the Holocaust in school and many are required to tour a concentration camp or visit a museum so they can learn about the horrible things that occurred so it may never happen again.The only small criticism I have of the book is in my opinion Annegret's storyline wasn't entirely necessary. I would though be willing to change my mind if I ever found out the author's reasons for including it. Some more context would probably help.Highly recommend reading especially if you are a frequent reader of World War 2 historical fiction.Thank you to the publisher and BookishFirst for sending me an advance reader's copy! I was under no obligation to post a review here and all views expressed are my honest opinion.
  • (4/5)
    Eva is asked to translate for Auschwitz trials in Frankfurt in 1963. Her parents run a restaurant, and she has a posh boyfriend. She's hoping Jürgen will propose. The trials affect her: she learns about the horrors of the camp as she translates the witnesses' experiences. Hess uses the real trial evidence in the book. Those accused follow the standard defence: they deny they were there, suggest dates were wrong, that they had no responsibility etc. Eva is gradually overwhelmed by what she translates, but finds that her family want to deny everything. She has strange childhood memories that she can't explain, and meets a young Canadian lawyer for the prosecution who takes the case personally.Hard-hitting account of attempts to deny the Holocaust after the war.
  • (5/5)
    A perspective on the holocaust that unfolds through emotions and facts. The impact on both those who suffered the cruelty. The hardened lies by those who delivered the cruelty. And then those who knew but did nothing ..: and their whys. The final truth at the end of story leaves one helpless and powerless. Recommend.
  • (5/5)
    It is 1963, and in Frankfurt twenty-four-year-old Eva Bruhn is living at home with her parents, her elder sister Annegret, a paediatric nurse and her much younger brother, Stefan. Home is an apartment above The German House, a restaurant owned and run by her parents. Eva has few memories of WWII and her home city, which was left so badly bomb-damaged at the end of the war, is now prospering. Her dreams are focused on wishing for the day when her rich boyfriend, Jürgen Schoormann, will ask her father’s permission to propose to her, thus enabling her to move away from her family to start married life.When the story opens she’s working as a Polish language translator for an agency, dealing mainly with contracts and business disputes. However, her rather mundane life, along with all her plans, are turned upside down when Canadian investigator, David Miller, approaches her to temporarily stand in as a translator in a war crimes trial. However, the first time she attempts to translate what a witness is saying she struggles to find the right words to describe what she is hearing and makes a number of mistakes which change the essential meaning of what he has said, so David has serious doubts about her competence and is reluctant to employ her again. However, as there is no alternative interpreter available, he reluctantly does so, but she is told that she must quickly learn the appropriate vocabulary. When she hears that this will include learning “every conceivable word for how to kill a person”, she gets her first chilling insight into the nature of the testaments she will hear during the trial. Neither her parents nor Jürgen want her to accept the position but, once she has realised the importance of what must be brought to light, she refuses to let them persuade her to turn the job down. She soon realises that everything she hears will challenge all her previously held beliefs and will change her life completely.At the first Frankfurt Auschwitz trial, which began in December 1963, twenty-two defendants were charged, under German law, for crimes committed when they were SS officers at the camp. It is against this background that the story is set, following the naïve Eva as she gradually comes to learn of the almost incomprehensible magnitude of the horrors which were perpetrated in that camp. As she translates the testimonies of the succession of witnesses, her passion for seeing justice done and her desire to see the guilty be held to account for the crimes they committed increases. As a result, she struggles to understand her parents lack of interest in the trial, and their reluctance to talk about what they did during the war. Their determined avoidance makes her increasingly wonder just what it is they are hiding.Eva also discovers, through the reactions of neighbours and some aspects of the media coverage, that her parents aren’t the only ones who think that there is nothing to be gained from the trial. There is a commonly held belief that whatever might have happened in the past, it should now be left there, that nothing could be gained from raking up old – and possibly false – memories. Her own conscious memories of her very young childhood are vague but, as the trial progresses, disturbing, dreamlike memories become ever-more vivid and she wonders what they signify. Memory, and the reliability, or otherwise, of an individual’s memory is a recurring theme throughout the book and I found this one of the most thought-provoking aspects of the story, especially as this is something with which we are all familiar, in the reporting of historic sex-abuse trials. I loved the character of Eva and felt moved by her transition from being a rather naïve young woman, with limited aspirations, to being someone who was prepared to confront the past, and to stand up for what she believed in. Although she was portrayed as being prepared to act against the wishes of her family, and her boyfriend, at a time when such independence of thinking and behaviour was not the norm, there was never a moment when I found it difficult to believe in the credibility of her characterisation.As well as Eva, I thought that each of the other characters was convincingly portrayed, with not one of them feeling superfluous to the developing story. Instead, the author’s depictions of their individual struggles to come to terms with past experiences, with current relationships and with everyday concerns, added layers of depth and enabled an exploration of a whole range of different attitudes and expectations. It’s difficult to go into any detail about what all these other characters bring to the story without spoiling the carefully controlled development of the various sub-plots, so I urge you to read this remarkable story in order to discover for yourself! Questions about how much “ordinary” people knew about what was going on at Auschwitz, and about all the other atrocities being carried out during the Nazi regime, threaded their way through the story, challenging any claims to innocence through ignorance because it’s inconceivable that, given the scale of the imprisonment and slaughter, this could have occurred in a vacuum. The story also explored how those who were children during the war coped when they came to understand what had taken place, when they perhaps discovered that their own relatives had played a part, either by participating in the atrocities or by “turning a blind eye” to what was going on. It’s impossible to read a story like this without asking “what would I have done if I had known, or suspected what was happening, would I have been courageous enough to put myself, and my family, in danger by taking action to challenge the authorities?” However, it’s complacent to think that this questioning belongs in the past, that nothing so appalling could possibly happen today. It’s all too easy to think of any number of modern-day examples of the world still being prepared to look away, even when confronted with evidence of persecution and torture, and of minority communities being displaced. As the eighteenth-century philosopher Edmund Burke observed … “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”.This is one of the most profoundly moving stories I’ve ever read and is one which I know will remain vivid in my memory for a long time to come. Even though I learnt nothing new about what happened in Auschwitz, that in no way diminished the horror of both the nature and the scale of the atrocities which were perpetrated, and of such overwhelming evidence of “man’s inhumanity to man”. I frequently found myself in tears as I read the harrowing accounts of what the survivors and their relatives had endured, the doubts which were so frequently expressed about the veracity their memories, and therefore the veracity of their testaments. Equally moving was following Eva’s distress as she realised what had happened in her country, her own family’s part in this, and then her passionate determination that the guilty should be brought to justice and that the world should listen, believe and atone. This is an assured, beautifully written debut novel and I’m left feeling in awe of the author’s ability to combine her meticulous research into her story-telling and her cast of, mostly fictional, characters. (In her author’s note she explains how she approached this balancing act.) I think the fact that she is, amongst other things, an award-winning screenwriter, contributes to the story being such a powerfully visual one. Whether she was describing the courtroom scenes, everyday activities in the Bruhn household, Stefan playing with his toys or his little dog, service in the restaurant, or the countryside, I felt totally immersed in each scene, able to hear, see, smell and feel everything that the characters were experiencing. But, powerfully evocative as I found so much of the story, the final paragraph of Part3 had the effect of “stopping me in my tracks”. This marked the end of a visit the members of the trial team had made to Auschwitz. During their time there they had seen for themselves the conditions the victims had had to endure, had stood in the same places the victims had stood, followed the same path through the woods to the gas chamber where the victims had experienced their last moments on earth and, as they sat in the open air, reflecting on all this, they were speechless, reduced to tears. When Eva, who had been going to record the events of the day in her diary, later that night, reflected “that there were no words for this”, I was not only in floods of tears, but I also empathised completely with what she meant. And yet, words do have to be found because the world must never be allowed to forget what happens when evil is enabled to thrive. Although there are many ways in which this is an extremely sad and disturbing story to read, I feel it’s important to say that it is not without some delightful moments of lightness and humour, many of which are provided by the mischievous young Stefan and Purzel, his pet dachshund!A final reflection: although I did wonder, when I first started reading, how I would feel about the lack of conventional chapters (the book is divided into four parts … and in Part1 the first natural break doesn’t come until p49!) it wasn’t long before I hardly noticed the format because, feeling so engaged with the story I felt no desire whatever for any interruption to the narrative!With thanks to NB and LibraryThing for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
  • (2/5)
    Eva Bruhns, is a young woman who becomes a translator for the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials in 1963. She doesn’t remember the war and looks forward to marrying her finance and starting her own life. But as the trials continues, she learns more about her family’s past and their involvement during the war.I really wanted to enjoy this story, as I am of German descent and my mother and grandmother lived not far from Frankfurt. The premise was intriguing but the book dragged on and the characters were not sympathetic. With no chapters, it just continued on and on with no real structure to the story. Did Eva learn anything or evolve because of what she learned? I’m not sure. Disappointed.
  • (5/5)
    Compelling story. It's true to life in how Germans and Poles alike dealt with the Holocaust whether it be denial, hate, shame, or complicity.
  • (5/5)
    As a fan of historical fiction mostly centered around WWII, this story revealed something from the other side, the German people and the aftermath of the Nazi regime there. Who could not have known? How could the people just not know what was happening in their own land? How do you hold a nation accountable and who pays for it?
  • (5/5)
    Illustrates how Germany tried to forget what the Nazis had committed. Very interesting read.