REVIEW: The German Girl, Armando Lucas Correa

Monday, 5 February 2018

The German Girl sweeps from Berlin at the brink of WWII to Cuba on the cusp of revolution, to New York in the wake of September 11th, before reaching its deeply moving conclusion in the tumult of present-day Havana. Based on a true story, this novel gives voice to the joys and sorrows of generations of exiles, forever seeking a place called home. 

Oh, wow. This book. THIS BOOK.
Did I cry? Why, yes, yes I did. I'm starting to think it would be impossible not to, because let’s be honest, my heart is normally made out of stone when it comes to books making me emotional. But by god, I cried.
The German Girl tells the story of two girls: Hannah, a Jewish pre-teen living in Berlin just before the start of World War 2, and Anna, a young girl living in modern-day New York City. Their two stories span multiple generations and the globe, and tell the tale of immigration, revolution and rampant anti-semitism in a world that is so damn cruel. Anna, wanting to more about her deceased father, convinces her mother to travel with her to Cuba to meet her great-Aunt and the only remaining member of his family, Hannah. Her desperate search for information about a man she has never met, frames the story of the family’s escape from Nazi Germany to the island of Cuba and tells of the great dangers of living in two countries torn apart by political conflict.
Formerly of great wealth, Hannah and her family leave everything behind to escape the horrendous treatment at the hands of the Nazis - and let’s be honest, quite a few of Germany’s non-Jewish everyday population. Truth be told, I had never heard of the MS St. Louis and the journey that it took from Germany to the Caribbean island of Cuba in 1939, but now I know that it will be something that will always stay with me. The ship represents, in my mind, the disregard that the world sometimes shows towards people in need and the actions of Cuba, Canada and the United States and the consequences, are truly abhorrent.
Hannah feels as though she could have been a real passenger on that ship. The German Girl is impeccably research and her characterisation, and that of the other members of her family and her friends, is hauntingly well-realised and heartbreakingly human. Hannah’s perspective of the catastrophic events that are taking place around her feels incredibly real and it is believable of her girl of her young age. Tales surrounding the events of World War 2, do not normally take their viewpoint from a person so young (apart from The Book Thief, which I felt has the same feel as The German Girl) and it is something that makes the novel and the real-life events it takes its inspiration from, only more horrifying and saddening to read about.
Overall, a moving and hard-hitting read. Brava!

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

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