Thursday, 5 April 2012

The German Boy by Patricia Wastvedt

The German Boy is a haunting tale about lost love and survival in war-torn Europe. The novel opens when Stefan, a young German orphan, comes to England to live with his Aunt Elisabeth and her family. Stefan, once a recruit in Hitler Youth, has physical and mental scars, as well as a hunting rifle hidden in his luggage. But before we learn what happens next, the story tracks back to before the war.  

In the late 1920s, Elisabeth, her sister Karen and school friend Rachel, are constant companions. When Rachel introduces her friends to her brother, sparks fly but it is Elisabeth he is drawn to. Everyone is charmed by Michael – he is beautiful and an artist with a talent for portraiture, which brings him into contact with wealthy bohemian society. However his Jewish heritage and lack of prospects make him an unsuitable match for Elisabeth and Michael travels to Europe.

With the rise of Hitler, the lives of Elisabeth, Karen, Rachel and Michael become complicated and at times dangerous. This is also very much a story where the sins of youth have long-felt consequences. At times I felt the characters deserved a good kick - they make poor decisions, are deceitful and foolishly believe the lies people tell them. They are also, without exception, tiresomely good-looking. 

And yet, somehow, I was compelled to keep reading, curious at how all the secrets and conniving would propel the characters towards what seemed to be unavoidable disaster. Perhaps it was because any minor irritations are more than compensated by the lush, poetic writing and the way Patricia Wastvedt builds drama scene by scene. She is certainly a talented writer – I just wish I could have found her characters more appealing...Posted by Paige Turner  

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The German Boy by Tricia Wastvedt, 2011

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