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Clara Paperback – March 25, 2014

3.7 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* Clara is studying in Vienna when she meets her Albert on the eve of WWII. A student of philosophy, she spends her school days being awakened in classes with greats such as Freud and Wittgenstein and her nights attending meetings of political activists. Youthful exuberance meets harsh reality, however, when shortly after her graduation and marriage, their country is torn by war and her life thrown into turmoil. With Albert away at the front, Clara faces the difficult landscape of Nazi-occupied Austria alone, raising their children and caring for friends and neighbors as best she can. She encounters heartbreaking difficulties and is forced to make onerous decisions through the long years of war and the following recovery. Told in flashbacks after Albert’s death decades later, Clara’s tale is part love story, part tribute to the women and families left behind and the terrible hardships they faced with great dignity during the war. Palka weaves an intimate tapestry of the Austrian home front and the philosophies and mind-sets of the time. Unflinching in its realism yet devoid of sensationalism, Clara showcases Palka’s great attention to detail, which enhances an already beautiful and deeply moving story of hope, love, and triumph. --Cortney Ophoff

Review

“Part love story, part tribute to the women and families left behind and the terrible hardships they faced with great dignity during the war. Palka weaves an intimate tapestry . . . . Unflinching in its realism yet devoid of sensationalism, Clara showcases Palka’s great attention to detail, which enhances an already beautiful and deeply moving story of hope, love, and triumph.”
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
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Emblem Editions (March 25, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0771071329
  • ISBN-13: 978-0771071324
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By happy reader VINE VOICE on February 7, 2014
Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I found "Clara" somewhat confusing. Sometimes from one paragraph to another the whole scene and characters in that scene would change without warning. Many times I thought I'd skipped some pages and went back to review hoping to get an idea of what was going on. As for Clara......I know thousands of brave women like her suffered horrors during those WWII years. I had no idea so many thousands of Germans and of Allies were killed. For that reason, knowing that perhaps the truth was even more horrific, it's hard to read on.
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..
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This was a unique POV for a WWII historical fiction: that of the average German who was only trying to survive WWII with their humanity intact. I liked how the author shows us a woman whose husband’s family is caught up in the fervor of the rising Nazis only to be disabused by the darker aspects.

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.
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Format: Paperback Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I thought Clara by Kurt Palka was to be a story of love between an aristocratic young woman and the cavalry officer, but it is one of the most emotionless books that I've ever read...ever. Inspired by a collection of documents, the author seems more interested in showing off what he knows about that part of history, rather than showing any real talent for story-telling. It could easily have been a story about androids for the lack of human emotions.

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.
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Format: Paperback
Goodreads - first reads winner

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.
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