- Paperback: 356 pages
- Publisher: Phyllis Edgerly Ring; 1 edition (November 14, 2015)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0996546987
- ISBN-13: 978-0996546980
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 167 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #659,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War Paperback – November 14, 2015
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Seven perfect days. Then he disappeared. A love story with a secret at its heart. Learn more
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The plot flows like a river with the author sliding in andout of tributaries that continually add context,illumination, and depth. Anna's tale is the current. It sweeps readersalong as she discoversthings about her husband she doesn't really wantto know, then uncoversinformation from her mother's past she finds hard to believe and accept, and finally shines a light on a dark figure from history that few haveever understood.
I was drawn in by Phyllis Ring's economical and expressive language. Then the story took over! Protagonist Anna Dahlberg must face the emotional fallout from a traumatic plane crash, while simultaneously uncovering the first clues in a shocking generational mystery involving key players in the Third Reich. Everything's complicated by a new romance that may help her overcome the past and find her true inner strength. But is it real? Love can manifest itself in enigmatic--and unexpected--ways. ~ Elizabeth Sims, author and contributing editor at Writer's Digest magazine
... fresh perspective of German women at opposing ends of the warring spectrum ... a beautiful story of enduring friendship and the lengths people will go to for love.
~ The Stellar Review
So persuasive is this novel that, before I could believe it was in fact a piece of fiction, I contacted the author and asked where she did her research and where she came up with the idea.
~ Leslie Handler, The Philadelphia Inquirer
From the Author
Each visit had its own rhythm and pace. The first, in the spring of 2010, was a kind of mad-rush count-down to get through them all before the Archives' five o'clock closing time. This involved leaving at least 15-20 extra minutes on each end for passing through security, checking in or out, and depositing or retrieving my belongings from a locker.
I couldn't take so much as my own pencil into the resource room where her albums are housed in several piles of volumes hard-bound in dark blue. Overwhelmed as I encountered them for the first time, I was attempting to encompass 33 years of one life in the equivalent of two afternoons.
Years of reading and research later, including interviews with some of those who met the subject of my search, my approach on the second visit was more like forensics. I was watching, among those several dozen books of her photos, most arranged quite haphazardly with little attention to chronological order, for patterns and connections that form a larger picture.
There are many photos whose settings and significance I could spot more readily, based on who was present, clues in the background of interiors and landscapes, even the clothes people were wearing.
But it was that most-elusive quarry that I was watching for -- the evidence of the emotional side of things. By the time I made the second visit, the years that I've spent following the trail of this life, as my novel's protagonist does, have led somewhere deeper. In much the way I can with photos of those whom I know, I can tell when a day was a joy, or a strain; when a smile was a spontaneous response, or a tight, forced mask.
Seven years onto this trail, I trolled those hundreds of images, watching for the signs of where the shifts came. Watching for those large and little junctures at which a life was repeatedly bartered away in the shadow of another, to the detriment of its self.
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The Munich Girl begins in a New Hampshire college town, as Peggy’s daughter, Anna is hired by Hannes Ritter, the new editor of a military history magazine owned by Anna’s husband, Lowell. Anna’s first assignment is to write an article about Eva. As Hannes describes his native Germany, Anna is instantly drawn to him for reasons she does not fully understand. Long silenced by her controlling husband, it’s the first time Anna’s opinions matter.
Anna is already facing change as she grieves her mother’s recent death. As she sorts through Peggy’s belongings, Anna discovers a number of items that suggest her mother’s life in Germany was far different from the one Anna knew. At the center of this curiosity is a portrait of Eva, a post-war prize acquired by her father that has been hanging on their wall for as long as Anna can remember.
In the midst of her research, a sudden turn forces Anna to face her life in a new way. Her discoveries about Peggy and Eva set her on a journey towards renewed strength and self-worth and show her the true meaning of family, love and going home.
Ring successfully tackles a tricky subject by suggesting a sympathetic understanding of Eva, who is often portrayed in history books as selfish and uncaring. By drawing parallels between the three women, their shared feelings of loneliness and despair, the author offers a possible explanation for Eva’s choice to love one of the most despised men in history. As Peggy tells her good friend Eva, “I may never understand your being with him. But I can well understand why someone would want you near.”
In addition to these parallels, Ring shows how German citizens were forced to endure Hitler’s reign. Many bravely joined the Resistance and others risked their lives by protecting the resisters. Her story shows the human element that exists on all sides during wartime and the hardships all people must endure.
The Munich Girl is an excellent story with unique ideas, layers and themes. And while Anna’s journey reaches a satisfying finish, Ring leaves the reader with much to consider.
I had already been interested in Phyllis Ring's writing after reading her book, "Snow Fence Road." Her writing conjures up a different era, of a 1940s sensibility, where the less said, the more is explained. She has a simplicity to her writing, which I have learned, as a burgeoning novelist, myself, is extremely hard to achieve without someone of Phyllis's abilities (and, in full disclosure, I did hire her to be my editor).
Now, let me tell you the many reasons why I so love this novel and believe it should be considered an American classic.
Phyllis writes so beautifully, for one. Her love of language, whether English or German, jumps off of the page and into your mind with such ease, you don't even feel as though you're reading. She speaks to you. Her characters become your friend, even the subject of the novel, Eva Braun, which is absolutely frightening. That I should feel any sympathy with a woman who was romantically involved with one of the most heinous human beings ever to be brought into this world is disturbing to me. Which is one of the reasons why this book is so important.
As someone who had loved film most of her life, I had wondered about Eva Braun's importance to both German cinema and filmography, as I was aware that her films extolled Hitler's iconography, as it were. But I never took the time to research Braun, in particular. Conjuring up her name usually accompanied an imaginary bile, in me, a distaste in what she represented, so she was not someone whom I really ever wanted to know, per se. So, when I learned about Phyllis' work, I was truly fascinated with what she might glean about her for us.
Although the book is labeled fiction, truthfully, it's hard to believe it, as the details jump off the page. Phyllis appears to have traced the comings and goings of this enigmatic woman, who, was encamped in her various places of refuge, waiting for her man, Die Fuhrer, to return to her. And it is in this capacity that we understand her: a woman of her time period, who turned the other way while her man went off to war, doing these "manly," but hopelessly imbecilic and crazy things. He would return to her periodically, every couple of weeks or months, while she waited for him, dutifully. Did she remain willfully blind, ignoring the atrocities that were being committed in the name of the Fatherland? Or was she too close to him to even know what he was doing, because when he returned to her, he was her lover, not her military commander?
Was the man who could butcher so many people the same man who could come home to her, and luxuriate in the arms of his beloved, exposing his vulnerabilities to her only? I'm not sure we'll ever know, but there's an inkling of what Eva probably felt during the years that she was with him (17 years, I seem to count). Was there any redeeming quality in her that makes her seem more human, and less a monster of historic proportions, in our hatred of all things "Third Reich?" You'll have to read to find that out for yourself.
Above all, this novel is about women. About friendship. About the way we protect each others' vulnerabilities. Of the secrets we keep. And about our loyalty to each other, though we carry out our daily lives supporting our men, as that's what women did, especially back in the day.
The novel is also about love. The kind we women always dream about and find in the character Hannes, a new hero for all women. I defy any woman not to believe him to be the man we've all been waiting for, or, if married, for whom we'd divorce our husbands if we had a chance to be with him.
The story is also a mystery, of the history behind a portrait that hangs in the home of an American woman of English and German descent. It is a story about longing to reconnect with our beloved deceased, of learning the things that our parents could not tell us for fear of destroying our own lives yet to be realized.
Phyllis has done a very brave thing, sharing a history with us that might be part of her own past, on some level. But the care that she took in making it plausible is also a gift to the reader. She dares look at the soul of the German during WWII, and the aftermath, in a reconciliation of sorts, that still hasn't been accomplished beyond the Nuremberg Trials, except through the bravery of women like Phyllis who are willing to open the door a crack to give us an opportunity to ask questions, ponder, and reconcile our humanity with our inhumanity.
I'm sure I'll read this book a second time. There are so many layers to it. I found it an irresistible and important read.
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Hitler was a monster, and there is no way around that. He was pure evil.Read more