Wednesday, April 11, 2012

One Last Summer by Catrin Collier

A very touching book about World War II, told from the perspective of a young German girl. 18-year-old Charlotte von Datski thinks she has it all - she lives in a beautiful house, comes from an aristocratic Prussian family and just got engaged to a count, a handsome man she has been admiring for a long time. But not only is she in for a surprise about what is expected of her once she becomes a wife, all this is happening in 1939 and the world is on the brink of war.

From day to day, Charlotte starts losing people she loves and is forced to grow and take charge of running the family home. She lets go of her ideals and her dreams and just tries to survive the horrible years of war. When the war ends and the Russians take Prussia, she flees west.

The story is not unlike so many horrible tales of those who survived the second World War. But it is the more engrossing because it is told by someone so young. The fact that it's told from the German perspective add a lot of value too - Charlotte is just a regular young girl looking out for her family, with no interest in politics and no racist beliefs. And yet, she is not allowed to stand to one side, she is forced to get involved and the side is chosen for her from the start.

It was strange for me personally to read this book, being Polish. East Prussia ceased to exist after the war and those lands are now part of Poland. Poland got land after the war ended, but it had so much of it taken away too. It's so unfair - and seems completely crazy - that politicians and armies could divide lands arbitrarily like that. It's so sad that so many people - not just in this conflict of course - have to leave their homes and their country like that. That can never be ok.

I was surprised by how powerful this book was and by what a page-turner it was too. I couldn't put it down, I didn't want to go to sleep at all. Despite the fact that I pretty much knew how it turned out, I needed to know for sure what came next.

The story is based on the lives of the author's mother and grandmother, which makes it more engrossing. I can't believe that real people lived this story. I can't imagine ever having the strength to go through what they went through, but I suppose people are strong. You continue on and tackle whatever is thrown your way.

Now on to happier books I think!

1 comment:

Kailana said...

I have never heard of this particular book. I will have to check it out!