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Sebastian (The Three Nations Trilogy Book 2) Kindle Edition
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Top Customer Reviews
Originally seen at The Bookish Owl ([...]
The second book in Christoph Fischer’s Three Nations trilogy is even better than the first. My information about World War I is very limited, going only as far as the knowledge that it was triggered by the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. Reading Sebastian made me learn a lot of things about World War I and while I couldn’t understand some of the political aspects due to perhaps my age and disinterest in politics, Sebastian was definitely a fascinating learning experience.
‘“Us old ones, we have already lived our lives, now let the young ones lead theirs.”’
Here’s the thing about this book; there is a wide variety of characters with their own personalities that are so different from each other that it was never a tedious read. Their individuality made it easier for me to empathize with them especially when it came to Sebastian. I loved how the author put a subtle twist of irony in the plot; Sebastian was a Jew, albeit a non-practicing one, who survived the war due to his mother’s Christian friends supporting them while Margit was a Christian living in Jewish charity. It really showed the stark reality of war, while nations may be fighting and grappling for power, individuals set aside their own differences due to a sense of duty towards another human being. It was a very small plot-bunny but beautiful nonetheless.
‘”Sometimes in life you have to compromise and realize that something which is merely good enough is good and enough. Keep reaching for the stars and see what it will get you.”’
Christoph created such realistic people that I could totally understand where they were coming from even if I live in such a wholly different era from them. Vera and Piroska were two characters so brilliantly written that they felt like actual breathing figures instead of ink on paper. I thought that Vera was a very weak woman with loads of self-pity while Piroska was just plain hateful with her brainwashing and paranoid disposition. It is weird that I both loved and hated these characters. Although I disliked them initially, their complexity was very endearing.
‘”Fear of bad news is sometimes worse than knowing the worst has come true.”’
While I couldn’t comprehend most of the political elements Sebastian had to offer, the author’s research was really commendable. He was able to paint a clear picture of Austria during World War I and it wasn’t difficult to visualize the lives Sebastian and his family led during these trying times.
Christoph Fischer’s Sebastian is a bittersweet piece of historical fiction filled with flawed characters that made my heart melt and realize that desperate times make us more humans. The Three Nations trilogy was much better with the second book and I am eagerly awaiting the conclusion to the series. I can’t wait to see what Christoph Fischer has up his sleeve!
As the novel unfolds and expands, we experience everyday life in this era. Vienna, in the years just before the Great War, was in a sort of golden age bubble --- a bubble that was about to burst. The trajectory of Sebastian's life will change, as will the lives of the other characters we meet, all tied in one way or another to the family's grocery store, a gathering place of many ethnicities.
The author, Christophe Fischer, is a very talented writer. His first book, THE LUCK OF THE WEISSENSTEINERS, was a fabulous read, too. I think the writing in SEBASTIAN is even more graceful and the history so smoothly integrated. Oh, how deftly the author laces the metaphorical shoe that Sebastian will no longer wear. Everyone is missing a shoe of one kind or another. Sebastian's journey is everyone's journey.
Who will love this novel? Anyone who values good storytelling, a well researched setting, and a cast of fascinating characters --- each with their own challenges. The novel holds our attention, so rapt we are in how people adapt, well or not, to changing landscapes in their lives, their decisions often based on their perceptions, accurate or not. SEBASTIAN is superb historical fiction. Highly recommended.
One of the beauties of the book is how it manages to paint a very vivid portrait of the Viennese society of the period, cosmopolitan, complex and with its great variety of nationalities, religions and unwritten rules. The novel shows us the wider historical events and how these affect a particular family. Thanks to the characters who come into contact with the family we can gain a wider perspective, as we get to see how people from Galicia felt, the difficult situation of Orthodox Jews from that area, how somebody who is known as a patriot today, might end up in the wrong side tomorrow through circumstances not always of their making. The shop at the centre of the book offers a great opportunity to understand the ins and outs of the public relations between the diverse groups, both from the point of view of the clients and also the staff.
Sebastian is the centre of that world, and he grows from a weak and cowardly young boy to a mature, well-adjusted and highly moral individual. We follow his education, his taking responsibility for the family business and the whole family, his romantic education, his fatherhood…The Viennese society of peace and war times are vividly depicted from a very personal point of view, filtered through the conscience of the characters, some of whom we might feel closer to than others, but who are all multi-dimensional and credible. We have proud mothers, psychoanalysis buffs, paranoid anti-Jewish women, mediums, spies…
I congratulate the author for his ability and talent in interweaving the many complex threads to create a wonderful patchwork of characters, lives and historical events that kept me engaged at both an intellectual and an emotional level. I’m sure this won’t be the last one of his books I read.