The story of an individual who grew up as the Nazis took over Germany- of a young man living through the years before and during and after the war. Here is the fabric of a life, any life, the weave changing through the years. Rodie Stamm grows up in a changing Germany, where his father turns from his scholarly articles to advising Nazis as to stratagems; he, in turn, after a leisurely adolescence including illness and consequent travel, is inevitably bound into the movement of troops against France and later Russia. At the defeat of Germany, he is without family, without his fiancee, without his left arm, without a home. Everyone, except some people who have a good racket, has lost. There is a kind of inescapability, a fatalism, that colors the book, as it colors the attitudes of the principal character things just seem to happen, that's all, and where one goes, and with what, at the end of the war, is a matter of question, or perhaps convenience. The book gives a feeling of realism, of life going on, rather than being a book of either philosophy or policy; the rather reflective hero is reminiscent of Hans Castorp of Mann's Magic Mountain, though the author has none of the brilliance or depth of Mann to offset the slow pace of the book, suggestive of wearying inevitability.