This is one fantastic review for Sebastian on Goodreads:
The choice of his characters in this second book in the series is the first thing that amazed me in this book, a large cast of people from all walks of life in the Capital, grouped around the title character Sebastian and his family grocery shop. Each of them seems to represent a different class, a social or an ethnic group of the melting pot that is the Habsburg Vienna of 1913. The family shop with its wide selection of goods for all minorities and with its ever changing staff serves almost as the perfect symbol for the Austro-Hungarian state that has run its cause and is held together only by a thin thread. Despite the well researched setting Fischer keeps the spotlight more on the human side of his characters and their conflicts than on politics and history as such. As in his previous work he never points the finger or favours any one group in particular. He gives us more an overall and rather authentic feel of the era. Self-doubt and fear of the unknown future oozes out of most his characters, particularly the physically fragile Sebastian and his family.
The old generation is holding on to what they know despite the fact that old remedies do not fit the new situation; the younger people are equally unsure how to be themselves in a modern world where old values are becoming meaningless and their own initiative and expertise will be needed.
With a hint of irony and a love for sentimental nostalgia Fischer portrays the stubborn heroes, the errant and self-defeating and often silly ways in which the characters trod along in their search for happiness, be that seances, amateur psycho-analysis or risking all for a piece of the past.
This second part of his trilogy is less intense in terms of historic background and has an easier flow of writing. Greatly evolved Fischer gently shows the falling apart of the old order, showing some of the innocence of the time. After having first written a book about the brutal times that follow this is a daring concept that fortunately paid off. Just like the leg amputated Sebastian has to learn to walk through life with what he has left, so will the new shrunken state of Austria need to find a new stance in a changing Europe.
Having read in an interview that the story is based on his own grandfather makes the story all the more touching and a small piece of history come alive.
This [Sebastian] is a really exceptional account of this kids life that is set just before the start of WWI. I really empathize with him and what he goes through. It’s difficult for me to imagine going through life missing a leg but it does keep him from getting caught up the meat grinder of trench warfare that is soon to come. This is one book I would recommend to anyone that likes to read historical fiction. I had previously read, “The Luck of the Weissensteiners,” and this story is definitely showing the development of his writing skills. He’s becoming quite good I feel.
Luck of the Weissensteiners – Book 1 in The Three Nations Trilogy by Christoph Fischer is an amazing story of love, friendship, family values, faith, death, prejudice, fear, loyalty, sacrifice, struggle, and survival. The story unfolds in Bratslavia in 1933 before the official start of WWII (although the first inklings of unrest can be clearly felt). In a bookstore is where we meet the main character, a sweet & very naive Greta Weissensteiner, and her charming suitor Wilhelm Winkelmeier. It is here that fate steps in and intertwines their families forever. Her family is Jewish and his family is German – not a very good combination when war finally reaches them. Like everyone around this time, they are forced to make difficult decisions that will affect their families forever.
I loved that the author chose to focus on the dynamics of the Weissensteiner & Winkelmeier families and the impact that the impending war had on them and not so much on the war itself. There is a bit of background history and mention of historical persons but beyond that it is very generalized and mostly fictional. The story is brilliantly & vividly told through the eyes of colorful characters as they weave their way throughout the horrors & triumphs of war. A haunting tale of innocence lost and a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit.
I look forward to reading the other books in The Three Nations Trilogy. As you read this book keep in mind the title – “The Luck of the Weissensteiners” – I ask is it really “Luck”? Read this fascinating story and form your own opinion.