I worked with Rosemary in Madrid and although we occasionally met for lunches or cañas, I never really delved into her background, nor did I know she harboured literary ambitions.
The thing that I really marvelled at, is that she speaks English like a native and can wield the language in ways that many UK speakers cannot. Yet she is tri-lingual; fluent in German, English and Spanish.
As to the story-telling; I was drawn in almost immediately.
She easily evokes the images of a rural & pastoral pre-war Germany as well as the ruined & divided post-war Germany.
She intersperses the personal life of young Annie Becker with background facts relative to the story's timeline, which bring depth and understanding to the story.
For most post-war Brits, bought up on a diet of war films about "the Hun" and the atocities of the Nazis, this book may surprise and could provide a first insight into how real Germans were also suffering, if not worse.
For example; she describes the bombing of Dresden in a factual way, briefly describing the impact on the civilian population on whom a firestorm was unleashed, but without directly aportioning blame. The reader must make their own mind up as to whether the Allied actions were justified or excessive.
I was born at roughly the same time as Anne Marie Becker, the heroine of this book. So I also grew up in a country at war - in fact the country which was locked in deadly conflict with Anne Marie's.
But I lived in a part of Britain which was of little interest to the Germans, so, unlike so many of my countrymen and women, knew nothing of the bombs and disruption which were her regular portion. Or of being invaded by the marauding Soviet Army, who were deliberately let off the leash for several days, given droit des seigneurs over the conquered people, especially the poor women.
Nevertheless, the war was a constant in my life as well, and it was very interesting to see it from the other side, especially from a contemporary.
I enjoyed the rest of the book as well, about the little girl growing into the confused teenager and then blossoming into a young woman. Then comes the sampling of freedom in the adult world, with its dangers and temptations, before the "Stop! Where am I going? What do I want to do with my life?" moment. Followed by the cutting of apron strings, the sailing off into the sunset of the unknown, more in command of self and with confidence in the future.
This is the story of Anne Marie Becker who grew up during World War II. She was only two-years-old when the bombs started falling. As the author states, part of this novel is fiction, part fact and part autobiographical. In any case, Coming Up For Air is a hard book to put down.
Through her excellent writing, Ms. Boehm transports us right into the war and shows us all the horrors and atrocities that happened then. As we watch Anne Marie grow up we experience her first love and then date rape. When she is old enough to get a job, older men have some particular ideas. Rose Marie doesn't just describe to us what happens; she shows us in such detail that we experience everything that Anne Marie goes through!
This page turner just isn't a story of growing up through that terrible war either. It's a story of growing up fast and finding your own freedom. It's about shaking off the chains of a previously rigid existence, coming up for air, taking a deep breath and finding your own life.
This reviewer was transported back to live through that terrible time. I highly recommend Coming Up For Air to all young adults and adults.
This is part fiction/autobiography of Rights of Passage. A girl, from childhood to post teen, growing up in Nazi Germany.....from devastion to a world of freedom. After hardship in childhood she blossoms into a teenager with all the angst and joy of life's discovery. The story is balanced by historical events of the time.A strong narrative. I think this book will appeal to teenagers, especially ones interested in history. It portrays teenagers as having the same experiences, whether then or now, in good times and bad. Having been one I can empathise with the heroine's experience of life: same problems/joys, parents,clothes, money,friendships, sex etc.- same era, different country. I would also recommend this for adults and readers who like an historical subtext.
I am an avid reader, and I find that most of the time if the writing is poor, the story maybe interesting. Or the writing is inventive, the story lacks lustre.
This is not the case with this book! I enjoyed all of it. The author's pen is fluid and the rhythm is fast, never a dull moment.
All the historical points of reference and the changing of the after war mentality was gripping and reawakened personal memories. Whatever went down at that time, was it in Germany or Holland, or Belgium, France and other parts of Europe, was shared by all of our generation. As you may have guessed by now, I am not a spring chicken anymore. Quite a recount and very instructive for our children.
I will talk about this book to everyone I know and hope that it will be a great success.