My second review for Wordfest is a poetically written book, Patient Number 7, (inspired by a true story) that takes the reader into the world of two Austrian families from the 1930s through the second world war into the present. It is fascinating to watch the evolution of Clara, the main character, a bright intellectual who illustrates how the idea of social concepts may be very different when they are put into practise. Her search to make sense of her world using her schooling infuses the book with a cerebral, reflective air.
As a woman I related to Clara’s determination to stay true to her own life despite becoming a wife and mother in extreme circumstances. There was strength to her character that had her doing for others at personal risk- that trait we all hope we would have in similar circumstances. Using the third person narrative left me wanting a deeper insight into Clara, but perhaps this approach leads her story to stand more as an example of any Austrian woman who survived this.
The author illustrates the impact of war on the Austrian people and in fact on any people. He also broadened my perception of who a German soldier might be. We are often fed a one-dimensional picture of good guys versus bad guys when the world is so much more complicated. One of the lines in the book that resonated with me was, “Because it had given her an entirely new sense of what she and the world were capable of, she treated it with respect…” Fascinating to ponder what we would be capable of in various circumstances.
It also reminded me of Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum, which I loved despite its harsh topic. From Goodreads: "Driven by the guilt of her heritage, Trudy, now a professor of German history, begins investigating the past and finally unearths the dramatic and heartbreaking truth of her mother's life."
The author tackles the complex issue of what it might have been like to survive the war from a German woman's perspective. It is a page turner and I felt more emotionally connected to the characters in this book than Patient Number 7.
Have you read any historical fiction that is from a less common perspective?