When his father is drafted to the war it falls to him to run the family grocery store in Vienna, to grow into his responsibilities, bear loss and uncertainty, and hopefully find love.
Sebastian Schreiber, his extended family, their friends and the store employees experience the 'golden days' of pre-war Vienna, the time of war and the end of the Monarchy, while trying to make a living and to preserve what they hold dear.
Fischer convincingly describes life in Vienna during the war years; how it affected the people in an otherwise safe and prosperous location, the beginning of the end for the monarchic system , the arrival of modern thoughts and trends, the Viennese class system and the end of an era.
As in the first book of the trilogy, "The Luck of The Weissensteiners" we are confronted again with themes of identity, nationality and borders. The step back in time from Book 1 and the change of location from Slovakia to Austria enables the reader to see the parallels and the differences deliberately out of sequential order, so as not to see one as the consequence of the other, but to experience them as the reality it must have felt like for people at the time.
Review from Goodreads:
"The strength of this author lies in the choice of his characters, a large ensemble cast around the title character Sebastian. Each of them seems to represent a different class, a social or an ethnic group of the melting pot that is the Habsburg Vienna of 1913.
The family shop with its wide selection of goods and changing staff serves almost as the perfect symbol for the forced Austro-Hungarian state that has run its cause. With much research gone into the setting Fischer however focuses more on the human side of his characters and their conflicts. As before, he never points the finger or favours one group in particular but manages to give a great and authentic feel of the times. Self-doubt and a fear of the future oozes out of most his characters, particularly the physically fragile Sebastian and his family.
It seems the old generation is holding on to what they know and what is slipping through their fingers; the young ones are unsure how to be themselves in a modern world where old values are becoming meaningless and their own initiative and expertise will be needed.
With a hint of irony and a love for sentiment and nostalgia Fischer portrays the stubborn heroes, the errant and self-defeating and often silly ways in which the characters trod along in their search for happiness, be that seances, amateur psycho-analysis or risking all for a piece of the past.
This second part of his trilogy is less intense in terms of historic background and has an easier flow of writing. Greatly evolved Fischer gently shows the falling apart of the old order, showing some of the innocence of the time. After having first written a book about the brutal times that follow this is a daring concept that fortunately paid off.
Just like the leg amputated Sebastian has to learn to walk through life with what he has left, so will the new shrunken state of Austria need to find a new stance in a changing Europe.
Having read in an interview that the story is based on his own grandfather makes the story all the more touching and a small piece of history come alive."
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.70(d)|
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
When a book opens before you, you expect to enter into a new reality--here, it is dropped upon you with a rarely seen immediacy. From the very first sentence, when the Serbian doctor tells Vera, "I am afraid I won't be able to save his leg," you understand in your bones how hard she tries to remain composed, so as not to frighten her son. Having stepped on a rusty nail, Sebastian has been hiding his injury from her, which is about to cost him dearly: the amputation of his leg, and the blow to the way he perceives himself at this sensitive age, both of which will eventually drive him to find his bearings, as he must. And not only he must overcome the limitations of his handicap, and come into his own-so must other characters, such as his frail mother. This is a time of war. We must all grow up. We must all find our inner power. The author, Christoph Fischer, has drawn life in Vienna with vivid detail, illustrating the intricacies of the pre-World War I era with great imagination, which is underpinned by careful research of historical aspects. As the father leaves for war, Sebastian is charged with being the man in the family; not an easy task for any young man, and it is even more of a challenge for Sebastian. His is an imbalanced, stilted world, controlled by the women left behind, both his mother and the mother of his beloved Margit, who makes her daughter leave him and follow her to Galicia, in search of her father. I was reminded of several women in my own family, and smiled with awe and affection at the amazing (if sometimes annoying) power and initiative of Jewish mothers... I am yet to read the first part of The Three Nations Trilogy, The Luck of the Weissensteiners. But to tell you the truth, sometimes I like reading one volume of of a trilogy out of order, to see if it holds on its own. Sebastian does. Highly recommended. Five stars.
A captivating novel written by a very talented author! Sebastian is such a wonderful, captivating story, rich in history and very intriguing characters. It takes place mainly in Vienna during World War I. The author’s passion for this era, his extensive research, and his love for detail created a magnificent tale of strength, courage, love, and hope in the midst of a devastating war. I fell in love with the sixteen-year-old protagonist—Sebastian—right from the start. The strength and maturity this boy exhibited after losing part of his leg, in contrast with what his mother described him to be, was fascinating. And even more fascinating was his life, his struggle with his disability, and what he managed to accomplish. I also liked very much Oscar—his grandfather, Margit and Gerlinde—the two loves of his life, and last but not least, Vera—his mother. They were all unique in their own way. It’s an excellent book which I highly recommend!
Sebastian is more than a story of a teenage boy who loses most of a leg because of an untreated infection. In this story we are given a look into life as it was in Vienna, Austria just before and during World War I. The Schreiber's are a non-practicing Jewish family that includes Sebastian's parents Franz and Vera, and his grandparents Oscar and Rebecca. The family lives upstairs from the store they own and operate. Franz has run the store ever since his father had to quit working due to health problems. The business is successful due to two main factors, the family are not openly Jewish and the store is located outside the of Jewish neighborhood. Their location allows the family to serve a broader customer base than would otherwise be possible in a time when prejudice against the Jewish population is beginning to stir. Vera is lovable in her innocent ignorance as she deals with first one doctor and then another. However, she finds strength in her anger when a new friend gives her a way to get rid of the young housekeeper leading Franz astray. Rebecca is eminently believable as the cranky old woman, bed-bound with pain and unable to contribute to the support of the family in any way. Oscar is a dear. Throughout Sebastian's convalescence, he tutor's his grandson to help him keep up with his studies. Franz is the over-worked husband trying to support a family of mostly invalids. Vera helps in the store as her health allows. The supporting cast of characters that surround the various family members speak to a time when communities banded together to help each other. Nurse Liesl, who gave so much love and support to a frightened young man, and later his mother when the doctor wouldn't commit to anything after the second surgery. Philip Federer, the classmate that brought classwork home so Sebastian could keep up with his assignments. The teacher that helped insure Sebastian had no trouble at school. Sebastian's lack of self-confidence is a constant theme throughout the story. He must begin to face that demon when his father is drafted to serve in the army. Feeling his handicap will mean he never finds love, he nevertheless does. This is a beautiful story that was a pleasure to read. The very human foibles the characters have, their fears and how they overcome the trials they face makes this book unforgettable. I have already read one book by this author. This book is definably Fischer with his attention to detail, his depth of character development and way of writing. Lacking the tension of Luck of the Weissensteiners, most likely due to being set thirty years prior to this book, Sebastian is a comfortable read. This book sings to me of a love of history, the time period and the characters. I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Fischer, Christophe. SEBASTIAN. The first sentence of SEBASTIAN stirred my curiosity, and like Alice, I found myself transported to another time and place. In a hospital room in pre-WWI Vienna, I felt the gravity of the situation. Was this doctor really going to amputate part of Sebastian’s leg? Carried along from page to page, I worried alongside his mother, Vera, and wondered why his father, Franz, was not there. As the novel unfolds and expands, we experience everyday life in this era. Vienna, in the years just before the Great War, was in a sort of golden age bubble --- a bubble that was about to burst. The trajectory of Sebastian’s life will change, as will the lives of the other characters we meet, all tied in one way or another to the family's grocery store, a gathering place of many ethnicities. The author, Christophe Fischer, is a very talented writer. His first book, THE LUCK OF THE WEISSENSTEINERS, was a fabulous read, too. I think the writing in SEBASTIAN is even more graceful and the history so smoothly integrated. Oh, how deftly the author laces the metaphorical shoe that Sebastian will no longer wear. Everyone is missing a shoe of one kind or another. Sebastian’s journey is everyone’s journey. Who will love this novel? Anyone who values good storytelling, a well researched setting, and a cast of fascinating characters --- each with their own challenges. The novel holds our attention, so rapt we are in how people adapt, well or not, to changing landscapes in their lives, their decisions often based on their perceptions, accurate or not. SEBASTIAN is superb historical fiction. Highly recommended.
Christoph Fischer Sebastian The Three Nations Trilogy #2 I fully enjoyed the first book in this trilogy, but the author has taken this book to a completely new level and I was gripped instantly. The character development is so strong, they all had a place in my heart throughout the book. Incredibly well written, the story flows so smoothly and I never felt lost or wondered what was going on, I just went with it. The historical aspect was always loitering in the background, but was subtle that it didn't feel like a history lesson and just became part of the book. Everyone would take something away from this book, and I highly recommend it to anyone.