Misery in 1940s Austria
My rating: 4 out of 5
Through Ursula’s teenage eyes the reader is given a glimpse of the impact of the Nazi occupation 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.