This weeks theme is historical fiction.
As this is about spotlighting books, which we loved but may be not so well known to other readers I decided to write about The Blindness of the Heart by Julia Franck this week. The summary is partly taken from shelfari.com.
Originally published as "Die Mittagsfrau" in German, this book won the German book prize in 2007. The Blindness of the Heart is a dark and gloomy novel set in the 20th century, spanning two world wars and several generations of a German family. In the devastating opening scene in 1945, a woman named Helene and her seven-year old son find themselves at a provincial German railway station, amidst the chaos of war refugees fleeing west. Having survived the horrors of the war years, Helene now abandons her son on the station platform, getting on a train and never looking back for him.
The story now goes back to the burdens of Helene's childhood with her sister Martha in rural Germany, which abruptly comes to an end with the outbreak of WWI. Helene's father is send to the Eastern Front and her Jewish mother slips into mental confusion over the hostility her surroundings now show her. Helene and Martha are going to live with their aunt Fanny in Berlin, where they grow to become young women. Aunt Fanny is a rich and cocaine-addicted lady, who introduces the sisters to the entertaining society of the 1920s Berlin. Helene falls madly in love with the young medicine student Carl, who wants her to get to know his family but dies in a car accident. Helene is devastated.
Now we have to watch how the hard years of survival (Helene is of Jewish descendant, due to her mother) and the ill-fated love make her capable of the unforgivable.
I hear you cry out loud: "The war is over but she leaves her son behind at a crowded railway station, though she struggled hard to keep him alive during those hard war years? Why? How could she?"
This is what the book is about, the things that must happen to a woman to make such a cold-hearted decision as to abandon her only child.
Julia Franck's English language debut novel throws light on a time, revealing the breathtaking scope of its citizens' denial - the "blindness of the heart" - that survival often demanded.
What do you think? Are there explanations for such a behavior?
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