WW II romance between a Nazi-reared German girl and a non-Aryan youth is an old, old story--but Korschunow, by downplaying...



WW II romance between a Nazi-reared German girl and a non-Aryan youth is an old, old story--but Korschunow, by downplaying both melodrama and passion, turns that premise into something muted and gently effective in this spare, stark, artful novel. The narrator is 17-year-old Regine Martens, now (in January 1945) hiding in the attic of a widowed farmer's wife, not far from the town where she went to school only a few months ago. And Regine's narration casually slides back and forth, from her attic loneliness and camaraderie (with farm-daughter Gertrud and French POW Maurice) to the fall of 1944, when her obedient-German complacency quickly fell apart. Her Nazi father was off at the front; her mother kept repeating ""The Fuhrer knows what he's doing."" But one night Regine felt compelled to offer medical aid to one of the Polish prisoner/laborers from the local cannery--followed by nearly-instant love for another Polish worker, unheroic-looking young Jan. They became lovers (""I want it and Jan wants it and everything is all right""), with Regine finding the pleasure that she missed in her one previous experience. (Out of pity, she had sex with poor, doomed farmer's son Walter, soon dead in battle.) Regine began questioning the Nazi values, even though mild-mannered Jan urged her to keep her change-of-heart secret. And then, betrayed by a neighbor, the lovers were exposed--Regine publicly humiliated, both of them taken off to prison. . . from which Regine escaped during a big air raid. So now, taken in by Waiter's stoical mother (who has lost all four sons to the war), Regine recalls all these events in short takes, waits for the war to end, learns a little realism from Gertrud and Maurice . . . and hopes--but without starry-eyed optimism--to see Jan again. (""I'm alive, I'll live on."") Without a pat happy ending or the usual scenes of terror/heroism: somber, fragmented treatment of plain, strong material--and though she's a bit too preachy in the handling of Regine's transformation, Korschunow (Who Killed Christopher?) grounds each sliver of the tale in convincing, last-days-of-the-war specifics.

Pub Date: Sept. 21, 1983


Page Count: -

Publisher: Godine

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983

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