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Clara Paperback – March 25, 2014
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—Booklist (starred review)
"Compelling . . . provides a discerning look at the Viennese and how they coped during the volatile periods during the 1930s, '40s - and post-war years. . . . Palka's book contains wisdom and elegance. He is a literary tour guide taking us into a post-Habsburg culture we could not access on our own."
—The Toronto Star
“With great sensitivity, Palka tells Clara's story, building sympathy and admiration for the strength, courage, unwavering love and compassion she demonstrates in the face of unbelievable challenges. This deeply engrossing and unforgettable novel will leave readers shouting "bravo" for the resiliency of the human spirit.”
– Publishers Weekly
"In much the same way as Carol Shields did for Daisy Goodwill Flett in The Stone Diaries, Kurt Palka gives dignity to a life lived in his creation of Clara Herzog. . . . As do John Wray's The Right Hand of Sleep and Hans Fallada's Every Man Dies Alone, it provokes questions about what we would have done if we had lived during the Third Reich. . . . Deals with some of the big themes in literature. But its lasting impression is that of a woman whose life mattered."
—Winnipeg Free Press
Top Customer Reviews
Another problem I found was that sometimes I would suddenly realize that someone was speaking or that the character had suddenly changed without warning.
To sum up.....this is a hard book to read.......not only because of the "skipping" around but mainly and, most importantly, the terrible events of those war years. The hardest part is knowing that humans could be so cruel and heartless..
Clara gives us a human face to the regular Germans whose lives were swept up by the Nazis and transformed into a thing they hardly recognize. She’s studying in university and looking forward to a fulfilling relationship with the man she loves. Circumstances change and now she’s the wife of a military officer and finding trouble trying to get her career on track because she’s female. The author takes us on a powerful journey as this woman tries to navigate an increasingly dangerous world and do so with her soul intact.
I liked how the author showed us the subtle ways the everyday German was able to help in their own small way. Yet, we’re also shown how many others jumped into the whole Nazi craze feet first and with enthusiasm. Gradually, one gets to a point where even a whisper or offhand comment could cause you to “disappear” overnight. The increasing darkness of Nazi controlled Austria and Germany makes Clara’s light shine all the brighter.
However, this novel has a very jarring aspect that makes it a hard read. There’s a clear lack of divide between time jumps. The novel alternately jumps from modern Austria to the WWII era with absolutely no distinction. One minute you’re reading about survival attempts from falling bombs and loved ones marching off to war and then we’re reading about satellites and characters as doctors who just three pages ago were toddlers. No where do we get indications that a time shift as occurred other than the actual narrative.Read more ›
Clara, the woman at the center of the novel, seems very cold and unfeeling throughout most of the novel. She shows more interest in her books than in her own children or husband. The character development is almost non-existent, and, despite the time period, there is little drama within. The story reads more like an essay than a novel.
I haven't been this disappointed with a book in a long time.
Although fiction, Clara was inspired by documented and recorded events. The story begins in the 1930's as Vienna is anticipating World War ll.
Clara Herzog was a student at Vienna University in 1931. Clara's ambition was to be a writer and a teacher and perhaps a literary translator - a portable career that would allow her to have a family. It was during this time that she met Albert Leonhardt. Clara's entire family disapproved of Albert from the beginning. Her father, whose love for Clara was the purest certainty in her life, disliked Albert. Her brother, Peter, encouraged her to drop Albert and concentrate on her studies and get a good education. He told her she would regret being involved with Albert. But Clara insisted that Albert was a good man and that she loved him.
Albert's military career in Austria was in ruins and he was at a low point in his life. Days were different now than what they'd been in early Vienna. He was dismissed from the Austrian cavalry and eventually trains horses. Albert and Clara planned to marry when she got her doctorate and had her own career. Her parents did not take the engagement well - and the story unfolds.
Cecilia, definitely my favorite character, was an admirable woman who displayed strength and courage. Cecilia was Albert's mother, and because of circumstances that unfold, she becomes the main breadwinner of the family. Her apartment in Vienna was always filled with music - she coached singers. Cecilia added a lot to the storyline - a very strong character.
Clara and Albert have two daughters. Willa - never married and a bit on the wild side, like her father. Emma - the youngest daughter, was rather gentle and the studious one.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I thought this book gave me an understanding of what it was like to live under Nazi rule during World War 2 . I thought the story jumped around with flashbacks too much.Published 3 days ago by Sandra
This is an interesting piece of historical fiction set in World War Two. It is well thought-out and well-written. Read morePublished 22 days ago by Dr. Jones
A sweeping tale of love and friendship, for readers of Suite Francaise, The Reader, and The Imposter Bride. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Tonya Speelman
Clara is a highly intelligent and eduated young woman in Austria in the years leading up to WWII and is studying philosophy at a university with some of the most brilliant minds... Read morePublished 7 months ago by The Gabster
Clara was a bit slow moving for me and just not a page turner. I kept it for by my bedside for an inordinately long time and sort of made myself finish it hoping for a change of... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Ashley Mott
I found this book to be an interesting perspective of WWII and the events leading up to it. Clara Herzog, though young and ambitious during the war years, reminds me of what it is... Read morePublished 12 months ago by loveguitar
Kind of a flat tale of an Austrian's woman's experiences prior to and during WWII. The characters never really came alive for me and it seemed more informative than entertaining,... Read morePublished 14 months ago by vesta2016
"Clara" describes the life of a young woman and her family -- Austrians, actually, not Germans -- during the 1930s and 1940s, showing how even "good... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Reader from Washington, DC
When I selected Kurt Palka's "Clara", it was with the idea that it would be a World War II story from a different angle and to a degree, Clara Herzog, the titular heroine... Read morePublished 15 months ago by sanoe.net