by Alexander Staritt
A young British man asks his German grandfather about his experiences in the war and gets no clear answers, but after the grandfather's death, a long letter is found addressed to his grandson which tells him the answers to his questions.
The grandfather was an ordinary foot soldier on the Eastern front, suffering not only the horrors of war but of decisions made by higher ups. He carries guilt for some things he had to do under orders and details out all the unpleasantness of what his life had become.
This is fiction and I have no way of knowing how close to factual experiences of German soldiers in WW2 it is or isn't, but it reads with plausibility and I was definitely gripped by the story. I generally avoid WW2 stories, but this was different because of the inside perspective of the side that lost, unlike the usual British and American films that glorify a horrendous state of affairs.
Most interesting was the very human side of the story as a group of soldiers get separated from their unit with no officer and have to make decisions for their own survival as well as considering accountability for their role in the war when eventually they get home, if they do.
Foraging for food, encountering others involved in the war on both their own side and the Russians brings a series of adventures. Near the end it gets rather intense with action, but there is also philosophising of an ordinary man who happened to be born at a time and place that would require he fight for the Nazi army and see his side lose, when all he really wanted was to go home and raise a family.
Very well written.
I blame Pinterest. Too many hours are spent chasing rabbit holes of glorious pictures of fashion from eras gone by, Highlanders in kilts, WWI ambulances, and fairytale castles. One day I was browsing something super important (or possibly escaping from the actual work I was supposed to be doing, er, we’ll never know) and stumbled across a black and white picture of six beautiful girls. Who are these lovely ladies? I wondered. A quick search brought up the Mitford sisters. Six gorgeous daughters born into an aristocratic English family, each girl with a different passion: Diana the fascist, Jessica the communist, Unity the Hitler lover, Nancy the novelist, Deborah the duchess, and Pamela the poultry connoisseur. Whoa. You know dinner time around their family table was interesting. How could such different personalities belong in the same family? What would you do if your sister got moon-eyed over Hitler??
Historical fiction has always been my favorite genre, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. One of the time periods that I tend to gravitate toward is WWII, and I’ve read fairly extensively within that category. As such, there aren’t many storylines that I haven’t encountered. This book, however, brings some interesting twists that make it distinguishable, and I have a feeling that it’s one read I won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Also, since the author is new to me, I am delighted to be able to add to my list of must-read Christian authors.
As an introvert, the title “The Socialite” honestly makes me a bit nervous, and the obvious opulence displayed by the forward—facing woman on the cover is also polar-opposite to my nature. Looks can be deceiving, though, and that could function as a tagline for this story. With a diverse panoply of characters, author J’nell Ciesielski takes readers into Nazi-occupied France in 1941, as the Fuhrer is continuing to establish his control throughout Europe. Where the novel becomes unique is in its focus, exploring the lives of two sisters whose paths have diverged. Ellie is more of a free spirit, no longer wanting to be tied down by her demanding parents, whereas Kat has always been the model older sister, obedient and yielding. Thus it falls on her to retrieve Ellie from the very heart of the Nazi regime in Paris, where Ellie is living with and romancing a Nazi officer named Eric von Schlegel. Of course, that is very much easier said than done, and a bar owner and important member of the Resistance, training fighters underground, arrives on the scene.
Needless to say, “The Socialite” is brim-full of action and adventure, as well as romance and the whole gamut of human emotions. An exhilarating read, I love how it engages the reader by taking situations that were plausible for the time and not only allowing readers to feel that they are experiencing events right along with the characters, but also to witness the characters’ thoughts. By doing so, readers realize that courage is not always strong and mighty, but more often a determination to succeed against the odds with the Lord’s help, by the grace of God. Another point that this book reinforces is that there can be some good in even the seemingly most evil people and events, and that sometimes we hide inside our ivory towers to try to escape what is happening when in fact God is calling us to suit up and march into battle.
Fans of Kate Breslin’s “For Such a Time”, especially, and any Christian historical fiction and historical romance books will want to meet and read “The Socialite.” There is still much that we can learn from history, starting with the reminder that God goes before us and behind us, protecting and guiding us through every obstacle.
I received a complimentary copy of this book through Celebrate Lit and was not required to post a favorable review. All opinions are my own.
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I'm excited to participate in another great blog tour! Today, we get a sneak peek at The Road to Liberation, a collection of stories exploring the trials and triumphs of World War II. Marion Kummero, one of the authors included in this anthology, is on my blog to talk about the inspiration for this book.