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The German Boy Paperback – 26 May 2011

4.0 out of 5 stars 46 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Viking (26 May 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067091942X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670919420
  • Product Dimensions: 15.3 x 2.6 x 21.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (46 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,074,039 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review

[An] asorbing literary saga... sophisticated and subtly woven --The Daily Mail

A readable and dramatic scoot through the first half of the 20th century, trailing wounded lives [and] ugly secrets
--The Guardian

About the Author

Patricia Wastvedt was born in London in 1954 and lives in northern France. She is the author of The River, which as Longlisted for the Orange Prize. This is her second novel.


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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Tricia Wastvedt has taken some time to follow up on her successful debut novel 'The River', but her second book is worth the wait. 'The German Boy' is a thoughtful and beautifully crafted novel, set in the years between 1927 and 1947, when the tragedy of the Great War still lingers, and new threats and challenges impact the lives of the characters.
This is the story of three women - all connected in some way with Michael Ross, a painter of Jewish descent - and the strengths and limitations of the affection that binds them. Tricia Wastvedt writes with insight about the choices and compromises people make, and those seemingly insignificant decisions which can resonate for the rest of their lives. Despite the dramatic times, the dilemma for her characters lies in the gap between their hopes and the reality of their day to day lives. This is, in part, a novel about unfulfilled potential and those life stories that will never happen; an artist who cannot paint as he would wish, a woman who cannot be a mother, and a love affair which can never blossom.
Set largely in Kent, London and Germany, the story is wonderfully visual. A busy railway platform, a derelict house in Germany, the sea and great shingle bank at Dungeness are all vividly imagined. This is a writer with the eye and the heart of a painter.
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Format: Paperback
The German Boy tells the stories of kith and kin, the connections, dislocations, choices and unforseen consequences of lives lived in an era punctuated by world war.

Wastvedt captures the minutiae of people's ordinary worlds: the making of a hearty supper, the feeling of starvation, a devastated city, the beauty of a landscape. This is interwoven with the experiences of a people who seem to be caught up in a mystery, where significant events are half known, sometimes spoken about, or perhaps kept secret.

There are some beautiful descriptive passages in the book:

"The sand is full of colours. Elisabeth digs her fingers down and scoops a cool damp handful. She pokes through the grains and they're spangled black and purple, white and pink. The mystery is there's no yellow although the beach that stretches in both directions is the colour of straw."

I read slowly, drinking in all the wonderful imagery that must have been so carefully crafted, and yet all through the book I was wanting to go forward to discover how Wastvedt woudl draw this complex web to a conclusion. I was not disappointed!
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
The German Boy is an unusual story about love and war, epitomised by the symbols of a silver locket and a decorated rifle, devices woven throughout the book like gold threads among the colours, leading the reader through the myriad intrigues and intricacies of her carefully created characters and the variety of settings into which they fall.

I was impressed with Patricia Wastvedt's complex and time-sweeping story of London families caught up in the web of 20th-century events, from Bohemianism to the Blitz. The lives of a trio of two sisters, Elisabeth and Karen, and their half-Jewish friend, Rachel, become intimately bound up with Rachel's brother Michael. The delicate love between Michael and Elisabeth, the selfish passion between Michael and Karen, the loneliness of Rachel, bereft of Michael, provide the central themes drawn against the effects of the First World War on their families, the emergence of the twenties Bohemian artistic community (into which artist Michael becomes inextricably connected), and the build-up of Nazism. The story crescendoes into the Second World War and concludes with the after-effects.

The novel actually begins with the coda: the German boy is Karen's son who comes to live with Elisabeth after she and her German husband have died during the war. But then Tricia Wastvedt turns the clock back to when the girls were young and plots her story's course concentrating on one character, then another, linking them, with other characters, introduced like new colours in the broad canvas. She never loses her threads in her structure of jumping time frames and moving between characters, and fills in the gaps with minimal description which nevertheless leaves the reader in no doubt of the in-between developments.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is 1947, the Second World War has been over for almost two years, and Englishwoman Elisabeth Mander, wife to George and mother of three girls, prepares herself for the arrival of her half-German orphaned nephew, Stefan Landau. Stefan is only sixteen years old, but having been born and brought up in Germany and been part of the Hitler Youth Movement, he has been indoctrinated into beliefs of Aryan superiority and of the inferiority of the Jewish race, and Elisabeth finds it difficult to think of him as the vulnerable child her husband does. Elisabeth loved Stefan's mother, her sister Karen, but intensely disliked and feared his German father, Artur Landau, and she is now nervously awaiting Stefan's arrival telling herself that she 'will inherit Karen's son, who I hate and love before I've even set eyes on him.'

Once Elisabeth sees Stefan and realises he has been psychologically damaged by his wartime experiences, she tries to put her misgivings aside and does her best to make him feel welcome. Apparently in response, Stefan presents his aunt with a picture of an attractive girl with copper-coloured hair, who bears a remarkable resemblance to Elisabeth, painted by an artist called Michael Ross. This picture brings back treasured memories that are both poignant and painful to bear for Elisabeth, but Stefan seems to be only interested in discovering the whereabouts of the painter, a man he thinks of as the Jew. Our story then smoothly moves back in time to 1927, where we meet a much younger Elisabeth and her sister Karen, and where we learn of their long-term involvement with the partly-Jewish Ross family, which includes the darkly attractive, but ill-fated Michael.
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