White Rose, Black Forest – Eoin Dempsey – Full House Reading Challenge

Genre: Historical  Fiction

Narrative Style: Two third person narratives that alternate. 

Rating: 2/5

Published: 2018 (Kindle First Purchase)

Format: Kindle

Synopsis: Franka is about to end her own life when she discovers the broken body of a German pilot in the snowy forest outside her family cabin. Instead of committing suicide, she manages to get his body back to the cabin and begins to nurse him. But all is not what it seems. Why does he cry out in English in his sleep?  Who is this man and will Franka be able to trust him? 

Reading Challenges: Full House Reading Challenge – Genre Dual Time Line. 

This was a Kindle First purchase. It sounded interesting, claimed to be based on a true story and had some good reviews so I went for it, despite having read some not so great books through Kindle First. This was no exception.

The story starts from Franka’s point of view. She is wandering through the forest, looking for a spot in which to commit suicide. However, instead she stumbles across the body of an Luftwaffe pilot, still alive but badly injured. She finds herself with a moral dilemma. Should she save the pilot or not, given her ambivalence about the war?

Fairly quickly, we are given the idea that all is not what it seems and the pilot may be a spy. This only furthers the moral issues for Franka, for while she does not approve of the Nazis, she also had issues with the allies who had killed her father in a bombing raid. Nevertheless, she decides that she cannot leave him to die and by some feat of superhuman strength manages to get him back to the cabin.

This was the first time – but not the last – that I felt my incredulity stretched to the limit. How would this one woman manage to move a badly injured pilot and  his heavy kitbag through the snowstorm. Everything is set up just a bit too neatly for my liking.

Then we start to get the story from the pilot, John’s,  point of view. Naturally, he is wary of Franka even though she claims to hate the Nazis, he thinks it is an elaborate plot.  After all, how likely was it that he had fallen precisely into the hands of a nazi hater. I thought it unlikely too but as it was based on a true story, I let it go. After all, strange coincidences do happen. However, when I finished reading this I was curious to know exactly what these events were and it transpires that John and Franka were made up by Dempsey and the ‘true’ elements were the situation in Germany at the time and the details of the White Rose movement. By that logic, all historical fiction could say it was based on a true story.

Over the course of the book, the pair share stories and start to trust each other. Neither story fully convinced although the darker details of Franka’s story were suitably disturbing. In fact, neither character really worked for me. They never truly escaped their stereotypes e.g. the good German and the American hero. As the book continued, the details just got more and more ridiculous and I found the ending particularly irritating. I guess I’m just not enough of a romantic to appreciate this sort of book.


DAY 14 – Book that made you cry – Dancer from the Dance and The Book Thief.

I don’t want to sound hard-hearted but I’m not really given to crying when I read. It’s at least partly because I don’t read the right sort of fiction – or what I imagine is the right sort of fiction. Jodi Picoult for example, I imagine from the subject matter of her books would probably move me to tears. As I have already noted, I am not really romantic so those sort of stories pass me by. So it took me a little while to decide what I was going to write about.

Dancer from the Dance by Andrew Holleran is one of those marvellous

photo (2)books that can have you laughing one minute and crying the next. Set in the New York Gay Scene in the 1970s, it is about one man’s search for some sort of meaning and some version of love in amongst the superficiality. Holleran brings the scene to life vividly. All of the characters are memorable, even if they only swim into the limelight briefly. In amongst all the chaos of the scene is Malone, exquisitely beautiful and extremely lonely. He seems untouched by everything while so desperately wanting to feel something. 

His friendship with the superbly catty queen Sutherland is at the centre of the novel and the reader becomes close to the both of them. It is this that renders the ending so very tragic and is so upsetting, Holleran frames the novel with letters from a friend who has left the scene and the details of the lives that have continued contained in these letters save the book from being too tragic and instead leave the reader with a more hopeful feeling.

My second choice is The Book Thief by Markus Zusak which is set in Germany in the second world war and is narrated by Death. I’m not sure what it was that was so devastating about this book. I have read other books

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with similar subject matter (Schindler’s Ark, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Pianist, for example) without getting upset.

Perhaps it is the idea of Death watching us and narrating. The tone is strangely distant from the events that it sees. There are tragedies in this book and they are upsetting but the moment in this book that finally made me cry is a happy one. it is a hopeful moment that speaks of true friendship. And it is a relief.