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The Undertaking

The Undertaking [Kindle Edition]

Audrey Magee
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Sweeping, powerful, epic --The Times

Brutal but brilliant... Full of heart-pounding suspense... Magee offers an insight both into the deprivation experienced by ordinary soldiers and the excesses of those in power... An impressive, even stunning debut' --Sunday Times (Ireland)

An engaging and beautifully written novel, with an emotional resonance that remains long after you've closed the book. It succeeds in doing what only the best historical novels can do - making the past feel present --Independent

A novel made all the more harrowing by its extreme readability --Observer

A violent, elegant, unsentimental journey through hell and halfway back. This is an outstanding novel by a writer of huge talent and unusual candour. --Chris Cleave

The Undertaking is written with sympathy and skill. The narrative is tense and engaging, filled with complex undertones, impelled by an urgency and a deep involvement with the characters. --Colm Tóibín

A bold and unsettling feat of empathy, all the more daring for its taut, beautifully understated style --A.D. Miller

A bold and unsettling feat of empathy, all the more daring for its taut, beautifully understated style --A.D Miller

I read her book with awe -- Fergal Keane

Justifies all the hype --The Scotsman

Product Description

A soldier on the Russian Front marries a photograph of a woman he has never met. Hundreds of miles away in Berlin, the woman marries a photograph of the soldier. It is a contract of business rather than love. When the newlywed strangers finally meet, however, passion blossoms and they begin to imagine a life together under the bright promise of Nazi Germany. But as the tide of war turns and Allied enemies come ever closer, the couple find themselves facing the terrible consequences of being ordinary people stained with their small share of an extraordinary guilt...

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 448 KB
  • Print Length: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books (6 Feb 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,110 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting Read 22 Feb 2014
I admit to an obsession with WW11 related books and The Undertaking is an excellent addition to the list of books I've read relating to the period. For a first book it's a superb & original effort and I was in its grip from the first page to the very last word.
Set in 1941 as the invasion of Russia rolls forward, Peter Faber is a young German soldier craving some home leave. He selects a Berlin woman, Katharina Spiller, from a marriage bureau and they proceed to marry by proxy. He gets his three weeks home leave and she gets the "status" of married woman, the promise of a widows' pension should he be killed & the prospect of fulfilling her duty to Hitler & producing children for the Reich. Important considerations for a young woman in the Germany of the time!
Most of the book is written as dialogue and it moves along at a lively pace - I really liked this style of writing & I liked that the author resisted, what must have been a temptaion, to fill in background details. The sparseness of the text is for me the defining feature of this book.
There is much great writing in this book but I will single out just one particular scene which I found truly heartwrenching & especially memorable as an example - Katharina's brother has been on sick leave with clearly post traumatic stress but the military command insist he is fit to return to the fighting. Katharina & her parents are obliged to deliver him to the train for the Russian front, he is clearly barely conscious & has no idea where he is or where he is going. They have to leave him in the carriage with his gear and walk away knowing he is going to his death - an amazing piece of writing IMO.
I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the period but also to anyone interested in more that just a simple love story & I really hope someone makes a movie version.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Gripping Debut 12 Feb 2014
Audrey Magee's impressive debut novel focuses on Peter Faber, a German soldier fighting at the Eastern front, who makes the decision to marry a woman he has never met in his desperation to leave the fighting for the honeymoon leave he is entitled to on his marriage. Katharina Spinell, the young woman he is to marry, considers this a marriage of convenience, knowing she will be eligible for a widow's pension should Peter be killed in action. Before the couple meet, neither Peter nor Katharina expect to be especially attracted to each other, nor to fall in love, but when they do meet in Berlin at Katharina's parents' home in the October of 1941, they soon find themselves becoming intimately involved with one another. When Peter returns to Russia and learns that Katharina is pregnant, his resolve to survive the war intensifies and this helps him to endure the tortuous conditions ahead of him, but will that resolve enable him to survive?

Meanwhile back in Berlin, Katharina, whose father becomes increasingly involved with an influential Nazi, Dr Weinart, described by her father as a man of great integrity and connections, enjoys a lifestyle that is far removed from her previous existence. However, Katharina is not blind to what is happening around her, as she witnesses the psychological breakdown of her brother, Johannes, who although suffering from intense mental stress is sent back to the front. And as time passes Katharina, who has undertaken the decision to wait for Peter, suffers from the worry of not knowing whether he is dead or alive or whether he is undergoing ordeals of which she can only imagine. And then with Germany's defeat at Stalingrad, the tide turns, and Katharina's life changes irrevocably.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Astonishing Debut 20 Mar 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I normally avoid novels about the war - It was part of my childhood memories, that was enough. But this was recommended by a friend, someone whose judgement I trust. I cannot sing it's praises highly enough. It is the war indeed, but the war from the other point of view. A story which starts by the strange marriage of two people who have never met. Peter, a German soldier serving on the Russian front and Katherina a young woman living in Berlin with her parents. Staunch supporters of Hitler and his policies.Nothing is spared - even the casual loathing and fear of Jews. Subjects normally shrouded in secrecy here are facts of everyday life. As you grow increasingly interested in these lives, care about them, not surprisingly the reader feels guilty for enjoying them so easily. Audrey Magee turns our emotions on their heads with a love story against the background of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust; but thIs time from the point of view of what we believe to be the enemy. She has a wonderful talent and I await her next book with eagerness.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars awesome and moving 22 Feb 2014
By bobby
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I could not put this book down. I am now puffy from weeping so it may not suit the over sensitive! This is such an unusual book telling the story of the Eastern Front by a German soldier and his new wife through an arranged distance marriage ceremony. It is so layered and sympathetic to the characters, and brutally honest too, as they struggle to live with their ideology and culture, and of course powerful self interest. The plot is carried largely by dialogue between the characters, families high and low in Berlin, and the soldiers at the front towards Stalingrad as Germany suffers defeat at the hands of the Russians. An amazing read which leaves one enlightened!
Google Audrey Magee to watch a good interview with her as she explains her thinking.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars I like it
Grim, but heartfelt
Published 3 days ago by M.K. VAN DEN BERG
4.0 out of 5 stars a young woman selling her only commodity (her hand in marriage) for a...
This World War 2 set novel of a German soldier desperate to have leave from the violence of the front, and Katerina, a young woman selling her only commodity (her hand in marriage)... Read more
Published 4 days ago by Rachel Bridgeman
3.0 out of 5 stars Bleak and brutal
The literature of war is written by the victors. Later, the victims, and eventually, the vanquished. Read more
Published 8 days ago by leekmuncher
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Marvellous debut; compelling contrasts of the experiences of Germans at war and home during WW2
Published 13 days ago by BobMay
5.0 out of 5 stars A superbly written first novel.
A wonderfully written, gripping story. This book offers insight into world war 2 from the perspective of the German soldier and his family.
Published 15 days ago by Elizabet Noar
4.0 out of 5 stars is good enough for her daughter
The Undertaking starts with Peter Faber marrying Katharina Spinell one day while fighting on the Eastern front. Read more
Published 19 days ago by Kevin Freeburn
5.0 out of 5 stars Totally absorbing.
Compelling. Set during the Siege of Stalingrad and the later Fall of Berlin grim events are to be expected: the brutality of the events; the harshness of the weather; the pains of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Purple fox
2.0 out of 5 stars Unconvincing.
So disappointed in this book, after reading all the gushing reviews. For me the characters were too sketchily drawn and lacking any credibility, so that I cared little what became... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Torres
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Excellent...absolutely loved it!
Published 1 month ago by Joan O'Reilly
3.0 out of 5 stars Light reading
Simple very predictive story line.
Published 1 month ago by Tania Vaskovic
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