My Own Dear Brother by Holly Müller

Misery in 1940s Austria     

My rating:  4 out of 5     

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Through Ursula’s teenage eyes the reader is given a glimpse of the impact of the Nazi occupMy Own Dear Brotheration of an Austrian rural village, and the incarceration of Russians in the nearby camp.  The disappearance of her friend brings out Ursula’s strengths, however later the Russian army arrive, and life gets even worse.

An interesting, but harrowing, look at life for Austrian villagers during these terrible years.  The horrifying nature of the story is made almost unbearable by the appalling characters of many of the lead figures, who almost quench any glimmer of hope that the few decent villagers give.

The prologue about the visit of St Nicholas and the Krampus might appear like fantasy writing  to those unfamiliar with this ongoing tradition.  It is explained fully later in the book.

I veered between rating this book a 5, for telling a story that needs to be told, to a rating of 3 because of the unpleasantness of many of the characters – this is after all a novel.  Therefore I ended up with an unsatisfactory (to my mind) rating of 4.

3 replies »

  1. I think you’ve underestimated this book. It definitely deserves a 5 rating – I was fortunate enough to be able to hear the author talking about the writing process, and how much of it is based on her own family history and the research she conducted, speaking to elderly Austrians about the war – you can see what she said here: http://createdtoread.com/book-review-my-own-dear-brother-holly-muller/
    I think it’s a pretty powerful read.

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  2. Thanks for the review. It sounds a gripping read and will add it to my list of books to get through before the end of the year. The one thing I didn’t really understand in your review was why you would down rate from a 5 to a 4 because the characters were unpleasant. It is set in a time of some of the most horrific human cruelty in recent history.

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  3. Hi Robert. Thanks for your comment. Its about a year since I read the book, but my recollection is that the book is primarily about ordinary villagers, NOT people involved in the atrocities. There was nothing (in the version that I read) that suggested that these villagers were based on real characters, so my point was that since it is a novel – though, as you say, set in a time of horrific human cruelty, the message of the book was not helped by most of the ordinary people (ie those not involved in the atrocities) in the book being thoroughly unpleasant. If you read it, do please come back and comment further. After all my view is only a personal one.

    You might be interested in my review of The Girl from Berlin (also under “Historical Fiction”) Here also the characters are fictional, but some of the “ordinary” characters in this book are depicted as decent people caught up in the horrors of the time, whilst others are shown, quite rightly, as evil. This is definitely a 5* book, telling a part of history that must never be forgotten.

    Naturally there is plenty of room for discussion as to whether locals could have done anything to stop some of the atrocities, but this is not the place for that.

    All the best
    Emma

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