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The English General (The Schellendorf Series) (Volume 3) Paperback – March 6, 2014
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About the Author
Lyn Alexander grew up in Ottawa, Canada during the war years and joined the Royal Canadian Air Force directly out of high school. She later resigned her commission to study veterinary medicine at the University of Guelph, Ontario. She has traveled much of Western Europe, the USA, and most of Canada, and speaks three foreign languages badly. She is today a practicing veterinarian in New Brunswick. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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I thoroughly enjoyed reading The English General, by Lyn Alexander. It is the third novel in the Schellendorf series. This type of novel only works when done well, and in Ms. Alexander’s capable hands this one is a winner. No mean feat considering that I’m a very picky reader. The characters are very well-drawn, with complex internal and external conflicts. They change in credible ways and for plausible reasons.
I am not an expert, but I know much more about World War II and Nazi Germany than the average reader. Historical people and events are portrayed with authenticity and flow naturally within the plot. The story presents a point of view rarely addressed in literature regarding Germany in World War II and without being a justification of the Nazis.
While the plot was always believable, the events were not predictable. That makes for a very satisfying read indeed.
I’ve already started Book 4 of the series!
Moral ambivalence, degrees of "good" (and "bad"), and differing concepts of loyalty...plenty of agonizing reappraisals to go around. We've been examining such ambiguities at least since the Nuremberg trials--and since James Mason starred as Field Marshal Erwin Rommel in the early 1950s movie, The Desert Fox.
Lyn Alexander now explores these issues in her historical novel, The English General (published in 2007). Her fictional Erich von Schellendorf has an additional source of ambivalence: he was born and raised an Englishman but became a German career officer even before World War I; by 1939, he is a general. As such, he contributes effectively to Germany's war effort even while seeking Hitler's death. Meanwhile, his private life is tortured as well. He has endured twenty years of a failed marriage--and "failed" is putting it mildly--and now falls in love with another woman; but the War forces them apart because she is English while he chooses to remain German. There are other, quite serious, complications in Erich's life, both personal and political, but it would be revealing too much of the book's plot for me to explain them here. I will say only that there is a case of espionage involved.
Dr. Alexander is well qualified to tell this story. She is a veteran of the Royal Canadian Air Force, with extensive experience living in post-WWII Germany; and she has obviously studied a lot of WWII history. Most interesting, while in Germany she became a friend of Rommel's widow, Lucie. (The fictional Erich von Schellendorf was also a friend of the Field Marshal.) In my view, Alexander is also something of a psychologist. She not only gives us an insightful and sensitive portrayal of Erich's wife, Britt, but of Erich himself. Empathy enables her to leap over gender obstacles to construct an in-depth portrait of a male protagonist; no mean feat. Erich and Britt's failed marriage is achingly real in the reader's eyes, and a dark mystery as well.
The story ends with some hints and even puzzles, none of them affecting the main plot and its denouement, but perhaps suggesting the sequel, which I certainly intend to read (A Good Soldier, 2009).
This is an exciting book, accurate in its portrayal of its real-life characters--top Nazis and top Army people alike--while its fictional people are real-to-life and well integrated into the history of Germany during World War II. I recommend it highly.
--Karl G. Larew, Ph.D.