Shocked to my very foundation I received two in-depth glowing reviews for The Luck of The Weissensteiners yesterday.
Have a look and be amazed with me. Thank you Bernice and Dennis for this much appreciated feedback and the time and care you took with your reviews. I am truly humbled – and smiling of course.
With much research behind it, as well as the personal experience of growing up in the region, Christoph Fischer’s work of historical fiction provides insight into the psyche beneath the levels of destruction in WWII-era Europe. If you are someone who wonders how such atrocities could have occurred prior to, and during WWII on the continent, you will want to read The Luck of the Weissensteiners.
The setting is Czechoslovakia, though it could have been almost any country in the region. Ethnic disrespect, hate, and violence have gone on for centuries in central and eastern Europe. Until reading this book, though, I did not understand how finely differentiated these forces were. Indirectly, the book also helped me to better understand how the dark side of nationality has wiped out countless human beings during various periods in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia—and for that matter, North and South America.
The Luck of the Weissensteiners follows two families and their circles of life, as they try to navigate the virulent events of their time. The story begins with the romance of a German bookseller and a young, beautiful woman of Jewish heritage. They will soon be caught in the whirling winds of their time. The author depicts how nearly impossible it is for the characters of this saga to avoid the propaganda machines around them, the pressures to conform, often in a chameleon fashion due to sudden changes in governance, and most unfortunately, the programming in ethnic bias from the time they were children. Despite the serious subjects, there is much warmth in this story. Some of the characters do find ways to stay true to the best in their natures or even redeem themselves, just as real individuals did then, and have always done on the plains of human existence.
If you enjoy well drawn characters whose lives and choices so deftly represent the themes of a book, The Luck of the Weissensteiners provides a rich read. In some ways, this book reminds me of classics I read long ago like The Canterbury Tales, or even The Odyssey, due to the diversity of personalities and the theme of journeys. From ethnic origin to talents and occupations, physical descriptions to sexual preferences, and economic status to political leanings, we see a cross section of humanity. Through their eyes and reactions, we can appreciate the full range of real outcomes and experiences, happy to sad or shocking, that occurred to real individuals during this era. By the way, the title of the book was an outstanding choice.
The Luck of the Weissensteiners would be tremendous in an audio version. For now, consider reading it out loud with a few friends who are interested in what life was like for those who lived the events of the novel’s time. Though some critics might question the generous use of adverbs and adjectives in his narrative voice and in the dialogue tags, Christoph Fischer deftly weaves his tapestry of history and fiction, with a grace not unlike Jonas, one of his primary characters. For me, the author’s choice of narrative style brought economy to the complex story being told, as well as a kind of mesmerizing rhythm.
This was not reading a book. This was experiencing literature.
First a word of warning for the faint of heart, or casual reader: This is a well-crafted work of literature. It makes excellent and proper use of language. If you have never read a great work of literature you may feel overwhelmed. This is to be expected. What you should do, in this case, is sit back and let the story educate and enlighten your mind as well as entertain and enthrall your spirit.
That said… Wow! I’m personally used to reading and writing books that are a bit grittier and dirtier in language/tone/subject matter than this. This is not a bubble gum read. The word choice and sentence structure used is truly inspired, and shows artistry that is lost to more than 90% of writers today, I’d wager. I was barely into this book and I felt that I was reading a work that had been published out of its era, as though it were a classic work, only discovered and released in the modern age. I would have believed this book was written in the time it was set in.
As always, I will give no spoilers in a review, but I will speak to what you can expect from the work as a whole. The tale is set in 1930’s Europe, and shows us the lives, loves, fear, passions, and prejudices that effected and informed the lives of peoples who were impacted so greatly by Nazi Germany. Jew and Catholic alike, even Lutheran, no one was immune to the social implications of policies gaining traction at that time.
The themes the author chose to addressed, from classism and anti-Semitism to religious bias, mental illness, and sexual orientation, were all well presented in plot, and nothing felt forced or even slightly out of place. I was, and still am amazed at the quality of craftsmanship shown in the storytelling.
I started reading this book with expectations, based on its subject matter and the time period it as set in. Those expectations were shattered.
I expected a work of fiction. This was a work of art.