The German Woman

The German Woman

3.6 6
by Paul Griner
     
 

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This riveting war story introduces us to beautiful Kate Zweig, the English widow of a German surgeon, and Claus Murphy, an exiled American with German roots—two lovers with complicated loyalties.

In 1918, Kate and her husband,Horst, are taken for spies by Russian soldiers and forced to flee their field hospital on the eastern front, barely escaping

Overview

This riveting war story introduces us to beautiful Kate Zweig, the English widow of a German surgeon, and Claus Murphy, an exiled American with German roots—two lovers with complicated loyalties.

In 1918, Kate and her husband,Horst, are taken for spies by Russian soldiers and forced to flee their field hospital on the eastern front, barely escaping with their lives. Years later, in London during the Nazis’ V-1 reign of terror, Claus spends his days making propaganda films and his nights as a British spy, worn down by the war and his own many secrets. When Claus meets the intriguing Kate Zweig, he finds himself powerfully drawn to her—even after evidence surfaces that she might not be exactly who she seems. As the war hurtles to a violent end, Claus must define where his own loyalties lie, whether he can make a difference in the war—and what might be gained by taking a leap of faith with Kate.

Echoing Pat Barker’s spare power and Sebastian Faulks’s sweeping historical sagas, and reminiscent of the haunting romance of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient, The German Woman takes us inside the two world wars that defined the twentieth century and the hidden histories of two unforgettable characters whose love story will haunt readers’ hearts and minds.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
For a novel with two main characters, logic dictates that each performer should take one of the leading roles to create a mini-cast production, but this audio proceeds the old-fashioned way, in tag-team style. Anne Flosnik, performing the first section set primarily in Germany after the Great War, has a brittle voice that takes some getting used to. Her range is dwarfed by the talented Michael Page, who picks up the story in London in 1944. Though narrating in a slightly British accent, Page captures the American cadences and personality of Charles/Claus with all his yearnings and ambivalence, and his Kate, the British-born woman at the heart of the first section, outshines Flosnik's interpretation. Despite the unevenness of the performances, Page's galvanizing narrative makes this well-researched historical novel worth sticking with. A Houghton Mifflin Harcourt hardcover (Reviews, Apr. 27). (June)
Kirkus Reviews
From the bloody aftermath of World War I to the somber streets of London under Nazi attack, this intelligent epic fuses romance, disaster, historical analysis and poetic observation. Kate Zweig's husband, a German surgeon, was blinded by a bomb on the eastern front in 1919, and when he died, Kate turned hard-and hardy. Griner (Collectors, 2001, etc.) examines divided loyalties and the exigencies of survival through the eyes of this English-born nurse-bold, beautiful, astute. Loyal to her husband in WWI, she'd witnessed horrors-a priest shot pointblank by marauding Reds; field hospital barbarism (bags of salt sewn into wounds). Then, in 1944 London, a new love arrives-Claus Murphy, American filmmaker of Irish and German descent. His complicated past includes being jailed as a traitor for making a movie about the American Revolution that, revealing real-life British atrocities, threatened the U.K./U.S. alliance. Claus suspects the refugee Kate of pro-Nazi sympathies (she decries the Allied bombing of German civilians) but is soon taken with her subtle and principled politics, courage and air of mysterious sadness. By night, he's an air warden, pulling bodies from the wreckage of bombed buildings; by day, for the Ministry of Information, he feeds the Nazis lies about D-Day and crafts British propaganda films. The two bond over tales of trauma: his dad, a shopkeeper beaten by anti-Kaiser goons; her vivid remembrance of wartime agony ("the sunken eyes and cyanotic lips of the cholera victims; the lilting bubble of typhus sufferers"). As the two connect, they negotiate the minefields of their histories-histories as messy and moving as those of all combat survivors. Complex, authentic andcompelling. Author tour to New York, Boston, Louisville, Lexington, Ky., Cincinnati, Dayton, Ohio

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780547055220
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
06/08/2009
Pages:
320
Product dimensions:
6.20(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.10(d)

Meet the Author

The German Woman was partly inspired by an E. M. Forster quote: “If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country.”

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The German Woman 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
1Katherine1 More than 1 year ago
Simplest summary: In the exhausted days of 1944, an English nurse (the widow of a German doctor) becomes lovers with an American exile. Both have secrets. This book takes place in two uncomfortable eras which are relegated to a couple of paragraphs in most of our high school history books: the sorry wrapping-up of World War I, when Germany endured vengeful blockades and half a million died of starvation, and (primarily) in the summer of 1944, when the Germans were clearly losing World War II but matters were far from done. The entire premise is wrapped up in the musing of Claus, one of the two main characters, when he thinks, "If the war was in many ways noble, at its margins it could yet be wrong." It would have been easy for this novel to get heavy handed. And certainly it isn't lighthearted summer-reading fun, as the author does not shy away from the gritty realities of those times. They are utterly foreign to most of us: a child with rickets, taking a bath with water rationing, the despair of a man searching through the rubble of a bombed-out house. Yet the writing is very good; Paul Griner certainly knows how to bring all our senses into the story, from Kate's perfume to the singing voices of a church congregation (suddenly silenced by the explosion of a bomb). He's equally good at expressing the uncertainties in personal relationships ("What does he think of me? Can I trust her?"). I found myself reading this book well after my bedtime, then waking up early to read "just a little more." Yet I'm reluctant to give it five stars, because I don't have that irresistible urge to press it on a friend. Without doubt, though, The German Woman is a good book for those who like historical novels or it-makes-you-think literature.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I very much enjoyed the earler portions of The German Woman, when it was narrated by Kate. When Claus took over the story telling, it became increasingly dull. Not a fan of the ending, either. If you enjoy historical fiction, don't mind the absense of dialogue, and appreciate ambiguous endings; then give it a whirl.
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