Those Who Save UsPosted: July 23, 2011
Those Who Save Us by Jenna Blum is a gripping story about the real-life effects of WWII on Germans, and how the past effects us in the present. The novel switches between narration by Anna, a young woman in Weimar during Hitler’s regime, and her daughter, Trudy, a professor of history in the 1990s. The characters, especially Anna, hold her secrets close to the chest.
Those Who Save Us can be disturbing at times as it takes a look at the details of life as a German living near a concentration camp. Anna is forced to become the mistress of a Nazi officer to save her life and Trudy’s, but the emphasis on the details of the affair became heavy-handed after awhile. Yes, it is a vital part of the book, but the repetition of graphic and nauseating scenes started feeling almost like the author was driving home the point a little to forcefully (that’s probably significant, whispers the part of my brain labeled English Major). I also found the ending a little abrupt, as the whole story seems to be driving toward one pivotal revelation, and in the end it is never quite made.
In any case, I found Those Who Save Us a worthy read. I won’t say “enjoyable,” because that’s simply the wrong word; plus, it’s insensitive to the tragic historical material of the novel. Overall, it is a well-told story about how we reconcile ourselves with the past, and what we need to do to live with it.