A finalist for the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction
“Impressive. Magee’s terse style, cross-cutting between the narratives of Katharina and Peter, generates its own tension and momentum.” New York Times Book Review
“Bare, brutal told with a sharply focused simplicity that both exposes and condemns through its understatement.” Kirkus Reviews
Lauded by New York Times bestselling writer Chris Cleave as “outstanding” and finalist for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction, The Undertaking is a remarkable debut novel from enticing new voice in fiction, Audrey Magee. Set during World War II amid the trenches of the Eastern front and the turmoil of Berlin under the Third Reich, The Undertaking follows the lives of an ordinary German soldier Peter Faber, as he approaches Stalingrad, and his new wife, Katharina Spinell, who, goaded on by her delusional parents, ruthlessly works her way into Nazi high society with tragic consequences. This is an unforgettable and elegant novel of marriage, ambition, and the brutality of war from one of our finest new writers.
“This is a devastating but quite stunning first novel.” Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A bold, honest novel about Nazi greed and moral blankness...Magee's cool, precise tone recalls Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin , and, like Heinrich Böll, Magee is haunted by the everyday and the small people who are inseparably part of a great ravagement.”Helen Dunmore, The Guardian (UK )
Audrey Magee worked for twelve years as a journalist and has written for, among others, The Times , The Irish Times and the Guardian. She studied German and French at University College Dublin and journalism at Dublin City University. She lives in Wicklow with her husband and three daughters. The Undertaking is her first novel.
The Undertaking 4.3 out of 5based on
More than 1 year ago
This novel is different: told from the German point of view, written in dialogue, and not a happy read. The novel includes: an arranged marriage, war, death, rape, commitment, children, prisoners, love, and more. Highly recommended! Other fascinating and excellent historical novels are: Whistling Women by Kely Romo, The Partisan by William Jarvis, The Night in Question by Laurie Graham. This novel deserves an A++++++
More than 1 year ago
The characters are well developed, the plot and dialogue are easy to follow and believable. The author is giving the German point of view with the female protagonist in Berlin and the male protagonist on the Russian front during WW II. Terrible times for the both of them and so many others. The story grabs you right from the start and keeps your attention to the end and beyond. Very thought provoking, and well researched, but so heart wrenching and bleak. I've read several books about WW II, but never from the German point of view. I like seeing both sides of a story, not just one side. Even though this is fiction, it is very realistic and compelling. I received this free through Goodreads First Reads for an honest review. I will be following this author in the future. Would recommend for young adult and up, because of graphic violence. OUTSTANDING!
More than 1 year ago
Reading The Undertaking once again made me aware of the ugliness of war. Having married by means of a special long distance ceremony, Peter Faber spends a remarkably romantic bit of honeymoon leave in Berlin with his new wife, Katharina Spinell, now Faber. However, before he returns to the front, his father in law, Günther Spinell, introduces Peter to his nightly occupation. A nightly occupation that ensures a comfortable home, lovely clothes, and food for Katharina and her mother.
Written from a German point of view, this book vividly relates the stark reality of soldiers involved on the eastern front. Descriptions of the fighting, the fear of the men, starvation and the insanity that often follows the trauma, bring the reader right into the center of the campaign.
Through Katharina's eyes we get a look at life in Berlin. Although they seem to carry on with normal daily life, those left behind in the city are subjected to air raids, food rationing and disease.
At first I thought Katharina to be a weak, unprincipled girl who said yes to her father's every whim. Fortunately, as the story progresses, Katharina actually grows a backbone. Slightly stubborn Peter, however, remains headstrong even after a grueling war as well as time spent in a Russian prison camp.
The character who truly horrified me, however, is Günther Spinell. Apart from his disgusting involvement with Dr. Weinard and his shady activities, he insists on sending his own son back to war despite the son's very obvious insanity. In Günther Spinell the author created one of the most heartless fictional characters I have ever encountered. The fact that the man uses this ruthlessness to secure luxuries for his family, makes it just that much more abhorrent.
Despite the bleak and rather depressing nature of this story, it gives the reader a realistic look at the woes of German soldiers on the front verses the lives of their women in Berlin.
The Undertaking takes the reader from the fashionable social circles of Berlin to the besieged German troops in Stalingrad and on to the horrors of a Russian prison camp. The unique German point of view makes this book just that much more interesting and in a way, touching. (Ellen Fritz)
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