Jan 17, 2019goddessbeth rated this title 5 out of 5 stars
I'm not usually a big fan of WWII-era historical fiction, mainly because it always leaves me feeling depressed. But this one was well worth the aftermath. It did a phenomenal job of establishing the environment in which Hitler rose to power and was able to implement such horrific acts. It's easy, from the perspective of the past, to assume everyone who believed in his rhetoric was racist, or ignorant, or just generally a bad person. But, of course, that's a gross oversimplification of a situation was *must* understand, lest we repeat it.
And you guys, reading some of the character musings on Hitler's programs, how he normalized horrible things...it hit pretty damned close to home. That wasn't even the focus of the book, it was just so powerful and well done that I fixated on it. This situation in which both ignorant peasants and educated elite agree with wonderful ideals that become darker and less idealistic over time. (Hitler's early toutings for landjahr, for instance, revolved around physical fitness, learning sustainable practices like farming, community, and music...that eventually clearly evolved into a more militaristic Hitler Youth situation, and his fixation on making children physically brutal)
So this is all reflected in the book, in the background. The primary story revolves around three widows, and their children, and a handful of years at the end and after WWII as they struggle to make their own community, survive, and essentially re-learn how to trust. The chief element is their humanity- all have regrets, impossible hopes, unrealistic standards, guilt and shame, etc. They are each incredibly relatable and real. And the story has enough bittersweet in it that for a time I wondered if it was partly based in the real life of someone the author knows.
If you can't tell from my rambling, I was impressed by the book and I recommend it to fans of fiction in general. Especially if you like historic fiction and/or bittersweet tales.