*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Title: The German Girl
Author: Armando Lucas Correa
Publisher: Atria Books
Publication Date: October 18, 2016
Synopsis from Goodreads:
In 1939 before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. Her family moved in Berlin’s highest social circles, admired by friends and neighbors. Now the streets of Berlin are draped with red, white, and black flags; their fine possessions are hauled away, and they are no longer welcome in the places that once felt like home. The two friends make a pact: come what may, they promise to have a future together. After a frantic search to obtain visas, the Rosenthals and the Martins depart from Hamburg on the luxurious passenger liner bound for Havana. Life aboard the ship is a welcome respite from the gloom of Berlin—filled with masquerade balls, dancing, and exquisite meals every night. But soon reports from the outside world began to filter in, and dark news overshadows the celebratory atmosphere on the ship; the governments of Cuba, the United States, and Canada are denying the passengers of the St. Louis admittance to their countries, forcing them to return to Europe as it descends into the Second World War. The ship that had seemed their salvation seems likely to become their death sentence.
Decades later in New York City on her eleventh birthday, Anna Rosen receives a mysterious envelope from Hannah, a great-aunt she has never met but who raised her deceased father. In an attempt to piece together her father’s mysterious past, Anna and her mother travel to Havana to meet Hannah, who is turning eighty-seven years old. Hannah reveals old family ties, recounts her journey aboard the Saint Louis and, for the first time, reveals what happened to her father and Leo. Bringing together the pain of the past with the mysteries of the present, Hannah gives young Anna a sense of their shared histories, forever intertwining their lives, honoring those they loved and cruelly lost.
You can’t help but love the two girls, Hannah and Anna, whose stories are so closely linked, but are separated by decades and eras. They are family but their lives and upbringing are worlds apart. Hannah is a refugee who’s family fled from Nazi-occupied Germany. She lost her life, friends, family, and everything she’d every known about herself. Anna is her great-niece who lost her father before she was even born, who doesn’t know her past or her history, but as she blossoms into a woman, she comes to know her story.
Correa has a very smooth voice and writing style that makes this story flow quickly, but allows the reader to savour each word. He connects us to these two eras, 1930s Germany/20th-Century Cuba, and 21st Century America. His novel is the tale of a family that lost themselves, and years later, they discover once again who they are. A lost name becomes a name reclaimed with pride in the end. Fear gives way to hope for the future.
I thought that the young girls were the most realistic and well-rounded characters, which makes sense because the stories are told from their perspectives. The adults in the story take a backseat. We understand them through the eyes of the children in an honest, yet limited way. Their voices are full of the innocence of childhood but as they, especially Hannah, matures we see her grow into a more complex women, although when we see her from Anna’s perspective, that distance between child and adult is established once again.
I was quite please with this story. It fits right in with the historical fiction kick that I’ve been on lately. It was easy to read and takes a new perspective on World War Two–one that I hadn’t read before. I would definitely recommend! I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.