Patty Bergen is the eldest daughter of the Bergen family, who run the department store in the small town of Jenkinsville, Arkansas. For reasons known only to themselves, the Bergen's' treat Patty as more of a nuisance than a daughter, bestowing all their love and affection on their younger daughter, Sharon. Patty isn't the most popular girl in town, and being Jewish sets her even further apart from her peers. After watching German prisoners of war being transported to the nearby POW camp, a chance meeting with one young soldier sets the scene for Patty's story.
Summer of My German Soldier explores themes of 1940's America and the effect of the war on ordinary Americans who, naturally, view the Germans as the enemy and have no tolerance, nor understanding for young soldiers who have ended up in a country where they do not speak the language, far from their homes.
Although I enjoyed the story, I was slightly disappointed with the ending, which was quite abrupt. I would also have liked to know more about what happened to Patty and some more insight into her family and the reasons behind their behaviour.
Written simplistically, yet emotionally it is hard not to feel sympathy for Patty and the situations in which she finds herself. It is also hard not to like Patty, who despite her difficult family life dreams of a future where she can be free and independent, at a time when children were expected to be seen and not heard. Shocking in parts and touching in others, Summer of My German Soldier is a book in which most of us could find things in common with our younger selves.