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Hello and happy Friday!  And you all know what Friday brings, yes,  its time to share another post to celebrate Indie Publishing and this time it’s Elliott & Thompson in the spotlight!   Today I have a review of “Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People” by Julia Boyd.


Description:

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Without the benefit of hindsight, how do you interpret what’s right in front of your eyes?

The events that took place in Germany between 1919 and 1945 were dramatic and terrible but there were also moments of confusion, of doubt – of hope. How easy was it to know what was actually going on, to grasp the essence of National Socialism, to remain untouched by the propaganda or predict the Holocaust?

Travellers in the Third Reich is an extraordinary history of the rise of the Nazis based on fascinating first-hand accounts, drawing together a multitude of voices and stories, including students, politicians, musicians, diplomats, schoolchildren, communists, scholars, athletes, poets, journalists, fascists, artists, tourists, even celebrities like Charles Lindbergh and Samuel Beckett. Their experiences create a remarkable three-dimensional picture of Germany under Hitler – one so palpable that the reader will feel, hear, even breathe the atmosphere.

These are the accidental eyewitnesses to history. Disturbing, absurd, moving, and ranging from the deeply trivial to the deeply tragic, their tales give a fresh insight into the complexities of the Third Reich, its paradoxes and its ultimate destruction.

My Thoughts & Review:

From the very outset, I want to say how incredibly detailed this book is.  It is clear from the way that it is written that there has been an unfathomable number of hours of research poured into this book and it pays off.

The reader is given a rare insight into Germany in the 1930s from travellers who had no idea of what was to become of the country in later years through a collection of diaries and letters that have not been published.
The propaganda machine that Hitler utilised is brought to life through the fascinating writing, there’s rich detail that conveys a clear picture of a segment of history that is often forgotten about, the run up to WWII.  Details of the rivalries within the Nazi party are mentioned, one of Ribbentrop’s parties being over shadowed by Göring hosting lavish events at his Air Ministry all in the name of impressing the senior British diplomat, Sir Robert Vansittart who was in Germany to attend the Olympics is just one such example.

I appreciate that Julia Boyd has taken the approach to include the horrors of this time too.  Some travellers describing the bombings as hellish times, and making the point that social status mattered not during air raids, everyone was in the shelters together for safety.  The hardships endured by ordinary people are sobering reading, as was the propaganda rife at the time.  Looking back with hindsight we can see what was the end goal, but there, in that moment in the 1930s, it must have seemed so persuasive and left people with views they were uncertain of.  Germany had a lot to offer visitors, spectacular scenery, rich culture, and a wonderful idealism.  I do find the idea that travellers who questioned the treatment of Jews unsavoury in terms of never getting answers.  It would seem that along with the patriotic devotion came naivety and a blinkered view, the juxtaposition of a hard working and friendly nation, family orientated that then shows such barbaric cruelty toward their fellow countryfolk would undoubtedly have left many travellers baffled.

An enlightening and captivating read that will leave many readers thinking.  It’s quite possibly one of the most inclusive sets of information I have read to date about life in Germany under the Third Reich and I applaud Julia Boyd for ensuring that her sources are varied.  Whilst some authors would chose to feature politicians, diplomats and notable public figures, Boyd has instead included the voices of artists, journalists, students, children and views from both fascists and communists to give a well rounded and incredibly real image of Germany.  This in turn gives readers something very rare, a glimpse of something we rarely see, but it also allows us in a way to experience the turbulent times that were the beginning of the destruction of Germany and the Reich.

 

You can buy a copy of “Travellers in the Third Reich: The Rise of Fascism Through the Eyes of Everyday People” via:

Amazon
Wordery
Book Depository

 

My thanks to Elliott & Thompson, especially Alison Menzies for sending me a copy of this book to read and enjoy.

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Paperback published 1 June 2017

 

Description:

The pain woke him up. He was grateful for it. The train had stopped and somewhere, up above them, the drone of aircraft engines filled the night sky. He could almost remember her smile . . . It must be the morphine . . . He had managed not to think about her for months now.

1944. Paul Brandt, a soldier in the German army, returns wounded and ashamed from the bloody chaos of the Eastern front to find his village home much changed and existing in the dark shadow of an SS rest hut – a luxurious retreat for those who manage the concentration camps, run with the help of a small group of female prisoners who – against all odds – have so far survived the war.

When, by chance, Brandt glimpses one of these prisoners, he realizes that he must find a way to access the hut. For inside is the woman to whom his fate has been tied since their arrest five years before, and now he must do all he can to protect her.

But as the Russian offensive moves ever closer, the days of this rest hut and its SS inhabitants are numbered. And while hope – for Brandt and the female prisoners – grows tantalizingly close, the danger too is now greater than ever.

And, in a forest to the east, a young female Soviet tank driver awaits her orders to advance . .

My Thoughts & Review:

“The Constant Soldier” is an incredibly wonderful novel set in 1944 following Paul Brandt a German soldier.  After being severely wounded in the line of duty on the Eastern Front he is sent home to convalesce and it is from here that the tale really begins.  Paul’s return home brings him face to face with the devastation left in the wake of the ongoing war, life has changed immeasurably for German citizens, the villagers that he remembers are different people – whether aiding in the war effort, victims of the Nazis or simply gone.  As Paul and his father make their way towards the family farm, Paul’s eyes are drawn to an SS rest hut and the female prisoners working there, and he is startled to realise he recognises one of them.

Through atmospheric flashbacks the reader is immersed in Paul’s life before the army, giving a wonderful insight to the man he was before the Nazi war machine spat him out and more importantly hinting towards the link between Paul and the female prisoner.
The sights that Paul saw during the war have undoubtedly left their mark on him, he is haunted by what has been done in the name of Germany and for victory and wants to atone for these sins.

William Ryan has written an exceptionally emotive novel, the writing itself is a thing of sheer beauty.  The fragility of the characters juxtaposes expertly with the danger and harshness of their situations.  The female prisoners surviving from one day to the next, fearfully alert for any punishment that might be meted out is just one example.  Another is the wonderful imagery of the advancing Soviet forces with young Polya the tank driver.  A young female who has worked on her tank from the moment it came into creation, she cares for her tank and cares about it even though it is an instrument of war.  This contrasts well with the menacing edge that builds with the advancement of the Soviets.
The physical descriptions of characters and settings are almost overpowering in places, the omnipotence of the German officers is evident through the writing, their actions inspiring abhorrence from the reader.  The brutality of the treatment faced by prisoners is not sugar coated, the atrocious acts carried out by the German army are detailed in places to add depth and authenticity and in doing so, William Ryan does his readers a service.  The portrayal of life during WWII depicts the harsh realities and the determination of partisans to do what they could to obstruct the ruling forces.

Paul Brandt is an extraordinary character, whilst not proud of what he has done, he wants to redeem himself.  Drawing a metaphorical line in the sand, he intends to live a life of atonement from that point onwards.

“The Constant Soldier” is a very special book, one that I will be marking out to read again very soon.  The emotion that it evoked from me was powerful and I absolutely loved every frantic moment of this book, my heart broke for the characters, I felt elation for those fleeting moments of victory for some characters but best of all I felt utterly immersed in this book.

Now I’m off to treat myself to other books by this author…..

My thanks to Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin for the recommendation and to William Ryan for sending me a copy of this truly exquisite book, I am forever in your debts.

You can buy a copy of “The Constant Soldier” via:

Amazon
Wordery
The Book Depository

 

 

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