One of my favorite genres to read is historical fiction. I don’t know why, but within this category I seem to gravitate toward World War II fiction in particular. The stories of heartbreak, resilience, and coming of age, despite so many obstacles always manages to pull on my heart strings. Netgalley was kind enough to send me a copy of Surviving the Fatherland: A True Coming-Of-Age Story Set in WWII Germany, for my honest review. And let me tell you, this one will definitely wear out your heart.
The story takes place through the years 1940-1953 and follows the author, Annette Oppenlander’s parents, called Lilly and Günter, in book. As you read you first find Lilly and Günter within their childhood, loosing their fathers to the war and their general day to day survival under Hitler’s Third Reich. Surviving the Fatherland dedicated a good chunk of itself to life during reconstruction, which was very interesting to read about as most WWII fiction I’ve read typically ends right after the war does. Eventually of course, the novel follows Oppenlander’s parent’s romance and eventual marriage.
As I briefly mentioned, Surviving the Fatherland is unlike any other World War II fiction that I have ever read. It paints a portrait of the day to day activities of German citizens during the war, what they’ve lost and how the suffered. It shows betrayal and the fear of not knowing who to trust. The German people as a whole, were not painted as villains, but as the victims of their leader’s decisions. This novel did not shy away from showing the brutality of the war. From the men in power, the desperation of German’s citizens, to means of survival – parts cut deep. There were moments when I had to put my copy down and walk away due to the brutality of it all.
The novel demonstrates the different roles that men and woman had to play in the war, as well. Not only through Günter and Lilly, but also through the adults that surround them. Oppenlander’s writing style was a little different than what I am used to, it took me a little while to get into the story. However, because of her writing the reader gets to take the role of an active observer of the character’s fight for survival, rather than having an immersive character experience. All in all, this novel completely exceeded my expectations. It was heartbreaking, brutal, and beautiful. The fact that this is a true story, makes all of these characteristics stronger. I cannot encourage you enough to check it out!
You can purchase your own copy of the book here.
Thank you so much for reading my review! And another thank you to Netgalley for giving me a copy 🙂 I’ll see you guys next Thursday with my September wrap up! Until then,