Author: Armando Lucas Correa
The German Girl is a new release already gaining some great reviews. I was approached by Simon & Schuster to feature this one as a book club and it is getting rave reviews in their office so I couldn’t resist. I hope our readers love it just as much.
I have an interesting relationship with historical novels in that I don’t read a lot of them but generally I grow to love the ones I do read. The German Girl is quite recent history and it centres on a terrible time for the human race which I fear is becoming more and more likely to happen again.
The story opens in Berlin, the year is 1939 and the persecution of ‘undesirables’ has begun. It isn’t actually said for a long time who the ‘undesirables’ are but we can put the pieces together to work it out. They are stripped of their jobs, their businesses and pushed out of their homes. Eventually 900 of them manage to buy passage on the SS St. Louis to take them out of Germany to begin a new life.
Hannah Rosenthal is fast approaching twelve and her life has always been charmed, her parents are wealthy and well respected in the community. All of this changes when the red, white and black flags begin being draped all through the city. Hannah and her best friend Leo continue exploring the streets of Berlin, avoiding the uniforms and the turned down noses of the pure. Leo is great at listening to what is going on with the adults and he manages to know what’s going to happen before it does.
A lot has been written about World War II and much of it focuses on the actual war, The German Girl takes us back before war is declared, to when the persecution began. 900 passengers boarded the SS St. Louis in the hope of starting a new life elsewhere. They managed to get together the exorbitant fees for passages and visas, through two different channels,and sail for Cuba where they plan to stay transitionally until they reach the top of the waiting list for entry into America.
Anna Rosen is an eleven year old girl living in New York City who receives a strange parcel of photos from Cuba connecting her to a family she wasn’t aware she had. She travels with her mother to meet her great-aunt Hannah and learn about where her family came from.
The German Girl is well researched and beautifully written, its is a heartbreaking tale of persecution and never finding a place to belong. It tells the tale of displaced persons who were evicted from their homes and unable to find a new one. They worked hard to gain entrance to another country and left their homes in good faith, only to be betrayed again. Families were separated, fortunes were lost and acceptance was never found even where resettlement was allowed.
I think it is important that these novels are still being written to highlight the acts perpetrated in World War II, many of us weren’t around to see it first hand but history certainly seems to be repeating.
There were a lot of things not actually spelled out which I think was a great story-telling tool and certainly spoke volumes about the times Hannah lived through.
I found that The German Girl took quite a while to really engage me, I’m not quite sure why. The story-telling was realistic and emotional, it was well written and the research was well done. I still read the first half in very short bursts, but once I was invested I got through the second half in a day or so. The German Girl tells an important story and I think it is one that we need to remember.
The Author’s Note tells us of the factual basis of the story and it’s heartbreaking to think of what these people went through, and what refugees suffer today.
Armando Lucas Correa can be followed on Facebook.