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Eva's Cousin (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – December 2, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Ballantine Reader's Circle
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books (December 2, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345449061
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345449061
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,877,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Eva Braun's cousin, Gertrude Weisker, was 20 years old when she played companion to Braun at the Berghof, Hitler's Bavarian aerie. Weisker kept silent about her time as a Nazi houseguest until she finally told all to German novelist Sibylle Knauss. Now Knauss has transformed Weisker's memories into the novel Eva's Cousin. While the novel's protagonist, Marlene, is a fictionalized version of Weisker, the rest of the infamous cast travel under their real names: Braun, Hitler, Goering, Speer. It's an odd and sometimes confusing project. As Marlene accompanies Eva through the final days of World War II--the days leading up to Braun's and Hitler's double suicide--we're never quite sure if we're witness to Weisker's memories or Knauss's invention. At its best, though, the book makes a compelling investigation into the mundanity of evil. Hitler is pathologized, but never diminished, as Marlene and Eva and all the rest tiptoe around him, careful not to upset him: "Nothing takes more courage than to disappoint a despot. Should he ever discover that free human beings with free will exist, it would surely be the death of him." Knauss cleverly counters Marlene's postadolescent musings with the mythically terrible world she inhabits: "I feel so lonely in Hitler's teahouse," she tells us. And "The only person who did understand me was Albert Speer." These juxtapositions indict Marlene for her very innocence, and make Eva's Cousin a powerful document of witness. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

In the sweltering summer of 1944, Germany's citizens were trapped between the Allied bombing raids and the fear-driven virulence of Hitler's faltering government. But for 20-year-old Marlene, invited by her cousin, Eva Braun, to stay at Hitler's mountain retreat in Berchtesgaden, the summer was one of sexual and social awakening. Marlene is initially blinded by the unaccustomed luxury, but she turns out to be both sensible and sensitive. While she has an affair with an SS officer, she also hides a young Russian boy who has escaped the work camps. Based on interviews with Braun's real cousin, the novel is a sympathetic portrait of an innocent girl who, while she seems ensconced in the heart of the Nazi empire, is actually a resistance force of one. An older, disenchanted Marlene looks back on these events and says that the entire country was steeped in guilt and shame: "We remember gray-faced people whom we saw passing by, and we remember that we saw them in the knowledge that they were lost." When Knauss implies that Marlene's experience can explain mass support for the Nazi regime, the moral center of the book falters, but her sparely poetic and intense portrait of a young girl caught between her own ethical code and the promise of power is unrelentingly powerful. A bestseller in Germany, the narrative is adeptly translated by prize-winning Anthea Bell, who has also rendered W.G. Sebald's works into English; it may well make Knauss's international reputation. Readers must judge for themselves whether the protagonist's description of her family as outspoken anti-Nazis is revisionist history, but her memories of Hitler and his entourage are bound to excite interest.real-life protagonist of this novel, Gertraud Weisker, waited until after his death to tell her story to veteran German novelist Knauss.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Jana L. Perskie HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
Eva's Cousin" is a work of fiction. Sibylle Knauss had always been interested in matters of German history and how they could be transformed into literature. Before beginning her novel, the author, had the opportunity to interview Gertrude Weisker, Eva Braun's real cousin and the model for her central character, Marlene. Eva Braun had indeed invited Ms. Weisker, 20 years-old at the time, to stay with her at Berchtesgaden in the spring of 1944, a year before WWII would end with Germany's unconditional surrender to Allied Forces, her cities, country and people laid waste. Hitler was away in east Prussia, waging war, and Eva was lonely - she needed to be amused. Although based on fact, many of the folks who people these pages are fictional, as are their stories. Essentially, however, Ms. Knauss captures the true characters of Eva, her cousin, and those who surrounded them, as well as the very ambiance of the Berghof itself, and the period, which represent, as Hannah Arendt worded it, "the banality of evil."

This is beautifully written, nuanced fiction, not an action-packed thriller, but I was riveted to the page even so. More dramatic and disturbing than the image of Nero fiddling while Rome burned, is one of the New Year Eve Ball, (1944-45), at the Platerhof Hotel in Obersalzberg, near Adolph Hitler's Bavarian mountain retreat. It was not a party for ascetics. Featured on the menu were: goose liver pate, larded saddle of venison, eels in aspic, Parma ham and overflowing bottles of champagne - all one could drink, and more. However, the hungry were not to be fed at this feast. The hungry and starving were in Auschwitz and Dachau. They were slave laborers in German factories. They were women and children throughout Europe. They were soldiers at the front.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book was a pleasure to read. The language was masterfully crafted, a real tribute to both the author and the translator. The seduction of power in its many forms is considered by the protagonist who recognizes how those around her come under its sway but who, only in retrospect, sees its impact directly on her. As she progresses through the novel, she causes the reader to consider the essence of guilt and of shame and how they are tied together. In today's political climate, it is interesting to reflect on what the German populace knew during the World War II era and Knauss makes us reflect on that society's and our own society's responsibility for allowing cruel, totalitarian leaders to continue in power.
Three months after completing this book in our bookclub, we still find ourselves returning to this book as a point of departure for discussing our other readings.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 12, 2004
Format: Paperback
I had to laugh when I read a couple of the reviews for this book, especially the one from the "top reviewer," who announced that the book was written by Eva Braun's cousin. And the other reader who felt cheated, not knowing what was true and what wasn't. It's very clear that this book is a NOVEL that was written by a German novelist -- and a very good one -- who happened to have met a cousin of Braun who had some of the experiences fictionalized in this book. It's a novel, folks -- so why are you searching for what was true and what wasn't? And pardon me to the so-called "top reviewer," but I never got the sense that I was expected to feel sorry for Eva, when clearly her own cousin (in the novel) was so conflicted about her herself. From almost the first page the author expresses her contempt for Eva. Marlene is a fascinating character, and we see the banality of evil through her eyes.
What a wonderful translation by Anthea Bell. Too often I am oblivious to the "greatness" of European literature because the translations are stilted and self-conscious. Not so here -- the flow of the narrative is seamless.
I'm disappointed that none of this author's other novels have been translated into English. But we're lucky to have this one. Don't let the negative reviews from people who clearly can't figure out what they're reading when they're reading it stop you from picking it up.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By hawthorne wood on March 12, 2005
Format: Paperback
Like many others, I've always been fascinated by the story of Eva Braun, but (maybe because I'm Jewish) was also afraid to really take a good look. It's part of a horrifying story for a Jew, but I was drawn to this book specifically because it purported to be a "fictionalized" version of a (probably mostly) true story. That kind of made it more neutral for me. What I didn't expect was to come away with some sympathy for Eva; the author revealed aspects of her life with Hitler that show her to be something of a victim and a prisoner herself. After all, once involved with this monster, she was not able to be free; she couldn't even leave her home alone, ever - she was always under guard. And the author also brings up the fact that Hitler wouldn't marry her publicly...she was always described as his "friend" or his "secretary." In that time, in Europe, it was something of a disgrace to be a mistress, with no hope of marrying the man who had ruined your reputation. So that Eva was placed in a humiliating position. In other words, this is as much a feminist novel as one about an evil society (which it also is; very, very subtly elaborated as the story unfolds). Another surprise was to find that I identified with Eva in some respects. For example, the author describes her as a "fashion addict," a shopaholic; all she ever thought about was what she would wear next. And Eva would often change her clothing several times a day. This vanity - this character defect of placing appearances above other values - is found among women everywhere, trained to use appearance to compete for men's attentions. Eva is depicted as shallow and uninterested in anything other than being Hitler's lap dog.Read more ›
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