In 1940’s Germany, war has swept the land. Fathers and sons are shipping off to fight for Hitler, whether they want to or not. Families are torn apart and the women and children struggle to survive the bombings and lack of rations. Lilly and Gunter are children from families who struggle to survive. Lilly’s father volunteered to go and left early in the war. Her cold mother has only enough emotions for her younger brother and Lilly is forced to grow up in a world without affection, slaving to keep her mother calm and her body fed. She also has to avoid the disgusting advances of her neighbor. Gunter’s father was drafted and then his oldest brother also received the summons. He spends the years scavenging for food and firewood to help care for his mother and younger brother. When he receives orders to go to war, he hides with his best friend, waiting for the war to end. When the war finally ends, life does not go back to normal. The following years have families waiting for word from their fathers and brothers, continuing to starve and fight to survive. When the two teens meet, love comes but life isn’t a fairy tale where that solves everything.
The author tells the story of Lilly and Gunter and the hardship of their lives in a way that draws the reader in and invests them in the story. It starts when they are young children and we watch each of them grow over the years in a continually more difficult world. When they finally meet, you ache for them to be the peace they need to help each other heal. Knowing this story is based on the authors family helps to engage with them to a degree. The world is written in a vibrant manner, at times you can feel the ache of hunger and smell the smoke. The horrors the children witness and live through brought me to tears.
All the books I have read about this time period focus on the plight of those persecuted by the Nazis. This story showed how much the average German suffered during the war in a world forced to submit to a harsh dictator. All the little people suffer in war.
5 out of 5 stars.
Lilly: May 1940
For me the war began, not with Hitler’s invasion of Poland, but with my father’s lie. I was seven at the time, a skinny thing with pigtails and bony knees, dressed in my mother’s lumpy hand-knitted sweaters, a girl who loved her father more than anything.
It was May of 1940, my favorite time of year when the air is filled with the smell of cut grass and lilacs, promising excursions to town and the cafes in the hilly land I called home.
Like any other weekend, my father came home that Friday carrying a heavy briefcase of folders. Only this time, he flung his case in the corner of the hallway like it was a bag of garbage. You have to understand. My father is a neat freak, a man who keeps himself and everything he touches in absolute order. And so even at seven—even before he said those fateful words—I knew something was different.
My father had been named after the German emperor, Wilhelm, and Mutti called him Willi, but to me he was always Vati.
Ignoring me, he hurried into the kitchen, his eyes bright with excitement. “I’ve been drafted.”
At the sink, Mutti abruptly dropped her sponge and stared at him. Her mouth opened, then closed without a sound.
I didn’t understand what he was talking about. I didn’t understand the meaning of a lie, yet I felt it even then. Like others detect an oncoming thunderstorm, pressure builds behind my forehead, a heaviness in my bones. There is something in the way the liar moves, his limbs hang stiffly on the body as if his soul cringes. His look at me is fleeting and there is something artificial in his voice.
Annette Oppenlander will be awarding a $25 Amazon or Barnes and Noble GC to a randomly drawn winner via rafflecopter during the tour. Follow the tour for more chances to win.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
As a historical novelist Annette Oppenlander spends much of her time in archives and historic neighborhoods. When she isn’t studying the past, she shares her knowledge through writing workshops and indulges her old mutt, Mocha. In her spare time she travels around the U.S. and Europe to discover amazing histories. The mother of three ‘former’ teens, Annette lives with her husband in Bloomington, Ind.
“Nearly every place holds some kind of secret, something that makes history come alive. When we scrutinize people and places closely, history is no longer a date or number, it turns into a story.”