The German Boy Paperback – 26 May 2011
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[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
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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
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!
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
my sister very pleased with this book that I brought her for her birthdayPublished 19 months ago by bambina
I don't know what I expected from this book but I thought it very disappointing.mmi kept reading hoping that the storyline would improve but alas! Read morePublished on 24 Mar. 2014 by Yvonne Kennedy
Intricately woven tale that kept me reading. At the beginning I found it hard to keep all of the characters in my head in the correct chronological order but i persevered and... Read morePublished on 19 Jun. 2013 by greeneye18
I read this book for my book club, and from the title and synopsis did not expect to enjoy it that much. Read morePublished on 8 Jun. 2013 by Bookworm
Well written and interesting. Non linear style became frustrating after a time and I just kept thinking "get on with it. Read morePublished on 13 May 2013 by Pegasus
Tense and finely written, the plot reveals itself neatly, involving several individuals. A very satisfying read, involving mind and feelings.Published on 20 April 2013 by absbee
I read this after reading The River by the same author, which slightly disappointed me. This novel draws you in from the start and the characters are extremely well drawn. Read morePublished on 14 Jan. 2013 by Milly Molly
I wouldn't put this up with the "Best Sellers" as the advertising claims, but it is worth a read. Different, yet in some parts predictable. Read morePublished on 8 Dec. 2012 by Thistles Witch