Rosie’s #BookReview Of #WW2 #Histfic THE WILLOW WREN by @philippwschott @ecwpress #TuesdayBookBlog

The Willow WrenThe Willow Wren by Philipp Schott

5 stars

The Willow Wren is a based on memories about Germany seen through the eyes of a young German boy, during the Second World War and for a few years after, in East Germany.

The story began in 1944, with a memory from ten-year-old Ludwig; he and his mother looked on at the partly bombed house that was once their home in Leipzig. They’d returned to the city for Ludwig’s birthday and hoped to meet with his father.

The story then went back, and built up through the early years of Ludwig’s life. We were introduced to a young bookish boy who preferred the peace and quiet of a forest with birds and trees. When war broke out, much of it was far away from Ludwig’s life and was meaningless to him, until the bombs began to fall. While his father stayed in the city the family were split up; Ludwig and his older brother Theodore were sent to a camp, where they were ‘encouraged’ to join the Hitler Youth. Those were terrifying years for two small boys who didn’t like war games and preferred books, made worse when teenager Theodore was sent to the Russian front.

After the war they both found their way back to live in Colditz with their mother and younger siblings. It was now part of the Russian ruled East Germany and Ludwig’s memories of those years were very enlightening.

This book was such a pleasure to read, the writing flowed smoothly and I was engrossed by Ludwig’s life and his perceptions of all that went on around him. I thought that seeing the war years through an adult’s memories of his childhood worked really well; children notice different things and their understanding of events can be different from an adults. I also liked how the author interspersed parts of the narrative with what Ludwig knew later, comparing it to a current event.

Although I can recommend the whole book, two parts stood out for me; I was quite shocked to read that near the end of the war desperate German leaders kept lowering the age limit of Hitler Youth needed in the fighting fronts and children were sent to face the enemy. The other part of the book which I found very interesting was life in East Germany, especially the first few years after the end of the war, when the adjustments to living under Soviet rule were difficult.

I loved the ending and the author’s notes at the end were very enlightening and worth reading to add perspective to the narrative; I found them quite emotional after the final chapter. Definitely a book to read for fans of historical fiction and the war years.

View all my reviews on Goodreads

Desc 1

The touching and nuanced portrait of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany through the eyes of a resourceful German boy.

Ludwig is an odd and introverted child, growing up in Hitler’s Germany. While Ludwig’s father, Wilhelm, is a senior Nazi and a true believer, Ludwig escapes the unfolding catastrophe by withdrawing into nature and books. Eventually, when the Allied bombing campaign intensifies, Ludwig is sent to a Hitler Youth camp, where his oddness makes him a target for bullying.

As the war turns against Germany, the Hitler Youth camp becomes ever more severe and militaristic, and the atmosphere spirals towards chaos. After the Nazis abandon the camp, Ludwig returns home, and his father is presumed dead. With Ludwig’s mother descending into depression, the 11-year-old bears increasing responsibility for the survival of the family as starvation sets in under Russian occupation. Soon, it will be impossible to leave the Russian zone, so Ludwig decides that he must rally his despondent mother and lead her and his three younger siblings in an escape attempt to the west.

Based on a true story, The Willow Wren is a unique, touching exploration of extremism, resilience, and the triumph of the small.

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Rosie’s#Bookreview Team #RBRT #HistoricalFiction THE SINS OF OTHERS by Florian Schneider

Today’s team review is from Sandra. She blogs here https://www.firthproof.co.uk/index.php/book-reviews

#RBRT Review Team

Sandra has been reading The Sins Of Others by Florian Schneider

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The Sins of Others is described as fiction, however, it reads more like a biography or memoir. Each of the eleven chapters deals with a different episode in the lives of Ingrid Heimlich, a left-wing terrorist in the 1970s, and her son, Ben, a photographer living in Los Angeles. The timeline covers the period from 1945 Berlin where Ingrid’s mother, Marlene, is starving and hiding from the Russians, to 2018 as Ingrid lies dying in a German hospital. The intervening chapters focus on specific events, allowing us to gradually piece together the stories of  Ingrid and Ben’s lives.

Ingrig was a hard character to empathise with as she did not seem to have changed much over the years, and was still using the same tired political arguments at the end of her life as she had in her youth. Ben was a more interesting character who had worked hard to improve his life, and was lucky enough to have found a partner to share it with.

I suspect that English isn’t the author’s first language as often the narrative had a stilted quality, with the word order in some passages reminiscent of German, but maybe this was deliberate? There was also a high number of obscure words used, where a simple one would have easily sufficed.

A much larger hindrance to the smooth flow of the narrative was an overuse of parenthetical dashes. The large sections of text enclosed within these dashes really slowed down and interrupted my reading; I often had to go back and reread whole paragraphs to get the sense of what the author was trying to say.

On a positive note, I thought that the historical background was thoroughly researched, and painted a fascinating picture, particularly of Berlin in the months leading up to the end of WW2.  It was just a shame that the disjointed narrative made it a struggle to read.

Book description

1993. The war-torn Bosnian countryside. Jane Abbott, a seasoned English conflict zone photographer who is no longer easily surprised, is surprised. Stunned, in fact, to’ve come across the son of the notorious Ingrid Heimlich—who, until her traceless disappearance twenty years ago, had been the world’s most infamous leftist terrorist. Ben Heimlich, the stranded German kid and wannabe reporter she has picked up by the roadside, is either fearless or incredibly naïve—though probably naïve—and were it not for the platoon of Serbian partisans who intercept them on their way, she’d pestered him incessantly with questions of his mother’s whereabouts. 1994. Still reeling from the horror he had seen in Bosnia—and, as ever, wondering where in the world his mother is—Ben Heimlich moves to the United States and settles in the sparkling neighborhood and allegory known as Hollywood. As he gets older and, eventually, more affluent, Ben realizes that, no matter how ostensibly successful he’s become, he can’t escape his lingering despair. When he meets Isabel, who’s left her own traumatic early life in Mexico behind to make a new beginning in Los Angeles, his life takes a dramatic upward turn. Chapter after chapter, Ben and his mother’s backgrounds and personae are illuminated from a multitude of angles by, among others, a former student activist aboard a hijacked airplane on a dusty stretch of tarmac in the capital of Libya in 1971; an aging homeless actor in Los Angeles still waiting for his break in 1994; a young girl who stumbles through the smoldering ruins of Berlin in 1945; a US State Department operative who interferes with sovereign states all over South America; the involuntary teenage wife of an imperious Sinaloan drug lord who attempts to flee her gilded cage; and the ninety-something-year-old son of German immigrants who’d fought for the United States against his parents’ onetime countrymen in World War II.

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