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A Postcard From the Volcano: A Novel of Pre-War Germany Paperback – May 25, 2009

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 520 pages
  • Publisher: Ignatius Press (May 25, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586172697
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586172695
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #490,722 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

29 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Gerard Webster, award-winning author VINE VOICE on May 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
This is a panoramic epic of the era between the two World Wars. Max von Hofmannswaldau is the son of a Prussian Count and a Jewish mother who converted to Christianity. It is through Max's eyes that we experience both the turmoil of the age that led up to Hitler and the fading days of empires and kings. Max and his closest friend, polish Count Adam Zapolski, wrestle in their student days with the various current philosophies which contributed to both. As they grow into manhood, they see reason and logic replaced by jingoism in the political struggle for the soul of Germany. Each is faced with moral dilemmas that require difficult choices, and each grows in his own way to a greater maturity and spirituality.

Lucy Beckett delves deeply into the characters of her novel. We come to know them as we would a friend or a brother. You feel with them the anguish, the anger, and the despair of the age--and the eventual hope found in God. The discussions about Nietzsche, Schopenhauer, and other philosophers are a bit heavy--but necessary to understanding the forces that shaped that day and age. Overall, A POSTCARD FROM THE VOLCANO was an enjoyable and enlightening read.
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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Miller VINE VOICE on February 20, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Not long ago I heard Joseph Pearce recommend a novel that he put in the same league as Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited. That is a pretty extravagant claim, but I trust Pearce's literary judgment generally and so ordered this book to read. I don't have the literary skill set to be able to judge how accurate this comparison was - all I can say is that this is one of my favorite novels ever.

The novel basically starts in pre World War I Germany and follows the life of Max from boyhood on as he lives through this difficult time in history and both grows up and grows in wisdom. A great Catholic novel does not have to have hit-you-over-the-head Catholic themes, but presents the truth of the human person in a way that enables you to reflect upon it. The characters are so alive in this book, that I would have to remember that it was a book of fiction and not a historical drama based on the lives of actual persons. I wanted to be able to enter into conversations with them to both interact and to learn from them. The last page of the book brought to me a sadness in realizing that the novel was over, even though the ending was quite apt. I just did not want this book to end - which I don't feel very often in a 500 plus page novel.

While much of the novel does not deal explicitly with Catholicism, as the story goes on those elements become more prominent at a philosophical level as the characters deal with the growing madness around them. In the midst of human depravity there is still always room for Christian hope and especially to pursuing/adhering to truth. I really wish I did have the literary capability to give this book the review it deserves and can only stumble in describing this novel. I can only give it my highest praise by saying it goes on my reread list .
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Hope for the Best on October 30, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beautifully written, insightful novel that captures the atmosphere and personal experience of life during the period between the world wars in Germany. It is often challenging, always engrossing. There is a true depth of understanding in this author's work and the writing rises to the level of some of the finest literature produced concerning the national character of the German people. The individual characters are well defined, real, and involving. It is a book that makes the reader think and successfully evokes an empathy for the characters, avoiding stereotypes and creating memorable dialog and feelings. It is much more than a simple look at the rise of Nazism and more about the challenges to the human soul in a world where one's beloved home has gone mad and you have become a stranger. I hope to read more from this author in the near future and recommend this novel without reserve.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Sue L. on May 10, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
A friend insisted I read this book because we are alarmed by the numerous parallels between pre-Nazi Germany and today's United States. He insisted that "Postcard" would illustrate even more clearly the similarities.
The book gets off to a very slow start as the author describes through Max's eyes his childhood and adolescent years of the early 1900's. It seems like we will never get to the 1930's. Without realizing it, we are suddenly walking through the 1920's and seeing the conditions that led to the rise to power of Hitler and Stalin. We watch Max's life as he moves to Breslau to attend school and live with his maternal grandfather while also losing his mother and his childhood home, but finds intellectual growth through his new friends and teachers at the Gymnasium--all in a tidal wave of social and political change in Germany. The unfolding of the lives of Max, Adam, Anna, and other main characters takes surprising twists that parallel what we are seeing in our own times. Given what ultimately happened in Europe and Russia, this is very unnerving to the reader.
Although some readers believe the book is written from a Catholic viewpoint, I did not find that to be true. As a Catholic, I found the book to be rather secular in its presentation of religion. And, that was consistent with the historical setting. Ultimately, a book well worth reading.
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