No way was this an enjoyable book It was excruciatingly difficult.but the end was beautiful, and that saved the book for me Before choosing this book I read through reviews One friend says in her review that the main character, Anna, a gentile German, was both na ve and uninformed when the story opens I certainly agree This detracts Putting it another way, several of the characters behave unconvincingly Their actions are construed Three examples follow in the spoiler view spoiler I never even felt love grow between Anna and Max Another example Matilda too quickly gave in to Anna s request to take part in the resistance She says, No, no, I cannot not tell you about that It is too dangerous and a few moments later she explains all Anna supposedly remained the Nazi officer s whore to save the life of her child, Trudy This would have felt muchconvincing if the mother daughter relationship was strongly portrayed Instead Trudy s relationship with the officer was emphasized These are just three examples of very many hide spoiler How good was this book So good I want to tell everyone about it, which in turn caused me to remember I joined this site but never posted on it because I hadn t been motivated until now.Anna is a young woman living in 1940s Germany who becomes involved in a relationship with a Jewish doctor you can guess without me having to say anything the far reaching consequences this will have, and it sets into motion all that follows.Fifty years later her daughter Trudy, a professor of German history at a Minnesota college, sets about unearthing the details of her mother s old life and the accompanying impact it has had on her own Those Who Save Us bounces back and forth between the past and the present, allowing deep insights into both character s lives, how they have been shaped by the atrocities of war and the Holocaust, the will to survive and the guilt that comes with remembering Those Who Save Us had me riveted until the very end finely written, it could have been a rather depressing read given the topic, but Blum never allows it to go down that path She keeps the reader from dwelling too much on the ugliness of the past by balancing it with the hopeful tone of the present as well as the mystery surrounding Trudy s search for the truth The question of how Blum will tie up the loose ends if she will keeps the pages turning.Put simply, Those Who Save Us is first rate historical fiction in novel form. For Fifty Years, Anna Schlemmer Has Refused To Talk About Her Life In Germany During World War II Her Daughter, Trudy, Was Only Three When She And Her Mother Were Liberated By An American Soldier And Went To Live With Him In Minnesota Trudy S Sole Evidence Of The Past Is An Old Photograph A Family Portrait Showing Anna, Trudy, And A Nazi Officer, The Obersturmfuhrer Of BuchenwaldDriven By The Guilt Of Her Heritage, Trudy, Now A Professor Of German History, Begins Investigating The Past And Finally Unearths The Dramatic And Heartbreaking Truth Of Her Mother S LifeCombining A Passionate, Doomed Love Story, A Vivid Evocation Of Life During The War, And A Poignant Mother Daughter Drama, Those Who Save Us Is A Profound Exploration Of What We Endure To Survive And The Legacy Of Shame I found all the characters in this book to be tiresome and two dimensional, often behaving unrealistically.Like Trudy, the woman who dresses as if she s in mourning for 50 years because she thinks she has a Nazi father.Or Max, the kindest and quietest soul, except when with no warning he pounces on the 19 year old Anna for rough sex without seeking consent, impregnating her with no regard to how her tyrannical Nazi father will react.And then Anna all but forgets about Max once she begins seeing the Officer This whole portion of the book could have been interesting if it explored Anna s conflicting feelings and how they develop during the affair, but instead it just describes all the episodes of creative Nazi sex The whole I did it for my daughter would have beencompelling if the book showed a real relationship between Anna and the infant, but the only time they interact is when the officer visits and Anna tells her to stay out of the way In fact the officer s relationship with Trudy is muchconvincing.I found the writing to be very awkward lacking in subtleties Like when Max tells Anna that their age difference is the least of their problems preventing them from having a relationship And then the narrator goes on to state that what Max meant by this was that a German in this time period could not have a relationship with a Jew Thanks I think we got that And I won t even get started on the ridiculous ending.Overall, I thought the storyline had potential I did finish the book after all but was poorly executed People who liked this book should try The Book Thief , which also portrays Germans during WWII but is infinitely better written. Well written, fast read I have often wondered how and why the German people accepted what was happening during WWII This book describes how many, if not most, were just trying to survive during difficult times However others truly believed in what was happening which is called patriotism regardless the right or wrong of it Contrary to my book club I do not believe Anna fell in love with the Oberstrumfuhrer I believe she was a victim of the trauma caused by her dependency on him for survival for her daughter Trudie and herself I believe the torture she suffered from the sadistic bully Oberstrumfuhrer, who used her body and her desperation to control and hold onto her, created an unnatural union from which she did not believe she would escape and may have given up hope The Oberstrumfuhrer was like her father in many ways, selfish, egotistical and corrupt Her bravery and strength of character allowed her to be as nurturing a parent as she was capable and a good spounse to her American husband Jack Swenson despite the years she suffered as slave to the whims of both her father and the Oberstrmfuhrer I think the ending was a bit too nicely tied up in a pretty pink bow, was it the editor s decision The contemporary story was as compelling as the historical narrative which is set in Nazi Germany and focuses on the reaction of the German people to the brutality and horror of that war I felt myself reflected as a lover of history to empathize with Trudy s passionate zeal to uncover the truths so long hidden from her In contrast, I felt myself equally sympathizing and understanding why Anna was compelled to keep her own war secrets hidden One of my favorite parts of the book is Anna telling Trudy that some pain from that time period cannot be shared with one another I applaud Jenna Blum for taking the time to also remind us of the civilian casualties that suffered their own private hell during the war At times, the third person narrative made me feel as if I was watching all of these events from the other side of the window However, this shifted when the story focusedon Anna and her pain just seemed to drip from the pages Jenna Blum is an outstanding storyteller and this book is a must read. While visiting the Holocaust Museum in Washington, DC, one encounters many horrifying exhibits There is an huge atrium, with a ceiling which seems endlessly tall Around this room, covering all of the wall surfaces, there are photographs There are happy families posing for group photos, babies with their toothless grins, little girls with pigtails, boys flying kites, sober individual shots for graduations, little men at their Bar Mitzvahs,loving couples gazing into eachother s eyes all people doing normal things, living their lives These were all Jewish Holocaust victims It is impossible to view these mementos without tears Further along and in many spots, there are videos of a variety of related incedents One vivid scene was that of American soldiers escorting the townspeople to Buchenwald to observe the horrifying remnants of the Nazi atrocities How could these people have not known of their activities What could they have done Jenna Blum has approached this topic in an innovative, heart rending novel Because of the Holocaust, many of us have lost family, or our friends have, or they are survivors Rarely does one think of the cost to the German citizens during the war Certainly, there were many sympathizers of the Reich, but many brave individuals did what they could to help their Jewish neighbors and friends Those Who Save Us is a powerful, emotional view of one woman s struggles to maintain her dignity, sanity and her integrity Confronted with starvation, cold and fears of death for herself and her child, she must engage in actions which she would have heretofore considered unthinkable and intolerable Toward the end of the book she tells her daughter, Anything I ever did, it was all for you The effects of her shame, horror and sadness are vividly spelled out in her daughter s constricted behaviors Blum has clearly conveyed the frustrations and pain of her characters ADDENDUMFor another view of the hopelessness of life for German citizens read The Plum Tree. I thoroughly enjoyed this book Quite engrossing A definite page turner and one that I felt I couldn t put down would stay up to the wee hours reading The imagery was unreal as well Everything that was described, I could picture envision This book was a difficult topic, but the style of writing was easy to comprehend So many WWII books deal with stories and tragedies of the Jews as they should however, this book, told the story of the sacrifices and occurrences of what everyday Germans went through Not the upper class or members of the party Reich or SS, but normal citizens Even though they may not have gone to the camps, rations were few far between, and the cruelty that they had to endure all for the Motherland was overwhelming It still boggles my mind as to the things that these officers did And to ask if they re human is quite reasonable, b c following orders or doing what they did is beyond comprehension This book tells the story of one German mother and what she must endure in order to protect her daughter Some heroic some shameful This book also helped me better understand certain German characteristics and ways of life.The other part of the book deals with the daughter of this German mother and how she must live with the silence and the not knowing about her true heritage, who s her father, who were all these people she remembers, etc What defines a hero Sometimes heroes are not who you think they are and what they do may not seem courageous to some, but for others, it s the world. Ugh What a terrible and yet compelling book It s the oddest thing I swung back and forth between giving it one star and giving it four I chose one because overall it was terribly clunky and awkward I felt as though the story was in the hands of an amateur who botched up too much to make the overall experience enjoyable Or, as if the struggle to write was too obvious here are only a few of my complaints Mixed metaphors The arctic are is like shards of glass in the lungs it shakes Trudy to the bones until they threaten to snap p.2There were many of these inarticulate descriptions of things I could tell would have been beautiful in the hands of aadept writer Unrealistic and cliched behavior You know how in bad movies the main character will be talking to someone and then will suddenly stop, mid sentence, and stare out into space because he is so overcome with his own internal emotional trauma that something he has just said or seen or heard or thought has triggered an inner storm that renders him paralyzed and it s not for at least a minute until the person the main character is with taps him on the shoulder and says, Hey Are you all right And the main character shakes his head and blinks his eyes several times and stutters, Oh Oh no I m fine Thanks Sorry And you know how this is so un compelling because this never happens in real life Well, the author employed that kind of stock behavior over and over Unconvincing, clunky, amateurish similes A sad afternoon, somehow abashed, as if the weather is aware that it is acting improperly but lacks the conviction to change seasons Ugh Predictable character and plot developmentI knew exactly how and when characters were going to change, because the circumstances were so obviously created for one purpose to drive forward the development that had to happen This is one of those books where the ending is the beginning and the joy of reading the book is to find out how it all comes together Also, the author was over obvious in identifying a particular experience as THE LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE of that character s life Truly great writers understand that character development occurs subtly, as the result of what might even seem an insignificant experience Tolstoy is a master at this Virginia Woolf is another Blum is not Consequently I felt banged over the head with the message, Here it is people The moment where she becomes a cold hard bitch See Right here So that was the ugh part There were compelling aspects of the book It was definitely a page turner The simple story, without the awkward handling by Blum, is poignant, evocative and heart wrenching I have never feltintimate, empathic outrage for characters than for those in this book, A Thousand Splendid Suns running a very close second in this respect And there were some unique, compelling and beautiful sentences As they pass through the windbreak of pines, fingers of sun pierce the clouds, transforming the spindrift in the fields into glittering sheets and highlighting the outbuildings in what seems to Trudy a shamelessly dramatic, ecclesiastical way p.4 again and again she will stare at his portrait of what could be a family with longing and horror and a species of awe p 394 And there were many instance of great vocabulary Words like rucked, mullioned, cloying, tureen I m a sucker for a perfectly executed wordBut overall A disappointing, frustrating read with just enough appeal to keep me reading, night after night, wishing for many reasons that the novel would end. This is one of those books that make you go, Wow And I did go, Wow, when I put it down Blum takes an enormous risk writing from the German perspective of the Holocaust, but it s a much needed risk It s amazing how people still frown down on all Germans involved in the Holocaust, how persecuted and hated they became once WWII was over.Please don t get me wrong, I m not defending the actions of the German s who openly participated in this senseless genocide And there is of course that even if you re not directly involved, not doing anything to stop it still makes you a part of the problem But this book sheds a tiny light on the German s who stood back and did nothing, or only did a little, or did what they could It shows us why many people didn t do anything to stop those doing wrong.The book starts a little slow, and at first I wasn t too partial to the jumping back and forth between Trudy in present day America to Anna back in war torn Germany, but after the first few chapters sections of it, I grew used to it and actually preferred it It also took a little getting used to the way dialogue was written out, I haven t read too many books that cut out quotation marks all together But again, once you get used to it, it takes on a natural flow.Anna and Trudy are both very different and intriguing characters that really hold the whole story together, especially Anna We have the privilege of seeing her young life in WWII and then seeing how it affects her as an older woman, allowing us a glimpse of other German s who came out of Germany after the war from apersonal perspective.When reading this book keep an eye out for the name Pfeffer, it will allow the interesting, I guess you could call it a twist, at the end to be evenshocking For me the name sounded familiar, but it was only a name in passing that I will have to probably go back and read again.One thing that tied me personally to the book was when Anna finally came to America and the sort of treatment she received On my father s side of the family his own dad s family immigrated to the U.S circa 1920s When WWII came around, the family was treated with hate and disdain, even the kids like my grandfather who were born in the U.S I think it was one thing that I appreciated about this book, is that while it s not condoning anything the German s did in the war, it s gently saying that hating all German s is wrong There are still German s out there racked with guilt even though, as the book tells us, there really wasn t much they could do.This is a touching novel, that while it does have a positive ending, doesn t turn into a sappy mother daughter bonding book It stays true to it s characters and style, and I definitely applaud Blum for taking a bold step and putting this amazing novel out there.
www.jennablum.com, and on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
- 479 pages
- Those Who Save Us
- Jenna Blum
- 08 February 2018 Jenna Blum