Monday, June 27, 2016

669 (2016 #24). The Girl From Krakow

by Alex Rosenberg,
read by Michael Page

I read this book because the local book club I used to belong to (before they moved their meetings to weekday daytime, when I can't attend) chose it for their next discussion.  I might have read it anyway, as it is being marketed as historical fiction, which I love.

"The Girl From Krakow" is Rita Feuerstahl, a Jew who can pass for "Aryan."  She ultimately does just that, with false papers turning her into Margarita Truschenko, an ethnic German (Volks-Deutsche) from Ukraine. The book covers the period from 1935 through 1947.  Rita's story is set mostly in Poland and Germany, and ultimately in Austria.

The other main character in the book is Rita's extramarital lover, another Jew named Tadeusz Sommermann, a gynecologist.  Besides Poland and Austria, he spends time in France, Spain (during the Civil War there, where he becomes Guillermo Romero), and Russia.  Thus the author pretty well has Europe covered for this time period, as well as various scenarios for the era - the military, the Jewish ghetto, factory work, post-war United Nations work, etc.

Rita is not a particularly sympathetic character.  I don't mind sex in books, and I don't see anything wrong with a character being sexually promiscuous and adventurous (besides Tadeusz, she is sexually involved with her physician husband, later a gay man who shares her room in the Jewish ghetto, and even later a woman).  However, it all felt somewhat gratuitous in this book.  It felt like the author (who is male) felt he needed all this to spice up the story.

The big problem I have with this book is that author Alex Rosenberg is a philosophy professor, and the book, his first novel, felt pedantic at times, with the characters discussing atheism and nihilism and other such topics.  It seemed like the author wanted to get his points across at the expense of character development, for all the book's characters seemed pretty shallow.

I also did not find it particularly realistic that Rita would carry two large, heavy volumes of Darwin's works with her everywhere she went (despite the risks), nor the "secret" her gay roommate told her that supposedly put her life at risk.

It didn't help that audiobook narrator Michael Page was awful.  His British accent was especially annoying with his rather nasal voice, and his interpretations of the female characters in the book were grating.  He did a fine job with male-only voices in The Watch That Ends the Night, but he should stay away from audiobooks where he will be voicing female characters.

While I learned a lot and am glad I read the book, it won't be for everyone, and I will not be re-reading it.  I wish I hadn't wasted an Audible credit (albeit a free one) to purchase it.

© Amanda Pape - 2016

[This electronic audiobook was purchased from Audible with a free credit.]

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