A young girl must deal with hardships in Germany after World War I.
Lehrer continues his groundbreaking new annotated translation of the beloved Nesthäkchen novels by Ury (1877-1943) with this clear and careful rendition of Nesthäkchens Backfischzeit. This installment finds the series’ plucky 15-year-old heroine, Annemarie Braun, in a Germany that’s just entered the Armistice at the end of World War I. Poor social planning on the part of the country’s war leaders, combined with a series of poor harvests, brings Germany to the brink of famine, with shortages and hardships affecting even the upper middle class of Annemarie’s father, a doctor in Berlin. Annemarie’s story itself takes her to the Silesian town of Sagan, where she lives with the prosperous, kindly Lange family essentially incognito until the clan gradually realizes that she’s a well-born, well-educated gentleman’s daughter. In the course of her various adventures—with the Langes, in town, with a tyrannical teacher at school—Annemarie displays the winning blend of headstrong emotions, fiery temper, playful disposition, and precocious love of literature that made her such a favorite with German readers in the early years of the 20th century. That combination surfaces especially in this volume when Annemarie organizes a student council to redress perceived wrongs—with her in charge, of course. This book was originally published in 1919, when German morale was shattered and the nation’s economy in tatters. The story clearly pitches Annemarie’s ebullience as an antidote to those ills, a psychological dynamism captured without fuss or archness by Lehrer. He smoothly handles the novel’s many social and literary allusions; his annotations remain unobtrusively helpful; and his translation of the text itself effectively conveys Ury’s affectionate, often tongue-in-cheek estimations of her own famous main character. The tale’s simple, hearty optimism reverberates not only in Lehrer’s translation, but also in the half-dozen charming period illustrations he reproduces.
A heartwarming, old-fashioned YA classic, set in the early 20th century, that also serves as a snapshot of a Germany in turmoil.