Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: A World Elsewhere by Sigrid MacRae

The extraordinary love story of an American blueblood and a German aristocrat—and a riveting tale of survival in wartime Germany.

Sigrid MacRae never knew her father, until a trove of letters revealed not only him, but the singular story of her parents’ intercontinental love affair. In Paris in 1927, her mother, Aimée, raised in a wealthy Hartford family, falls in love with a charming, sophisticated Baltic German baron, a penniless exile of the Russian revolution. But the harsh reality of post-WWI Germany is inescapable: a bleak economy and the rise of Hitler quash Heinrich’s diplomatic ambitions, and their struggling family farm north of Berlin drains Aimée’s modest fortune. 

In 1941, Heinrich volunteers for the Russian front and is killed by a sniper. Widowed, living in a country soon at war with her own, Aimée must fend for herself. With home and family in jeopardy, she and her six young children flee the advancing Russian army in an epic journey, back to the country she thought she’d left behind.



Received for review.

Despite the really rather disorienting time jumps this as actually a quite enjoyable read about life in Germany between the wars.

Of course, this isn't really about the experiences of the actual working classes in Germany, but rather that of a rich woman from the US (I am embarrassed that she is from Connecticut as it makes the rest of us in the state look bad) marrying a German aristocrat.  Their "struggles" are not really representative of those of the other 99.9% of the German population at the time.  However, despite that this is a rather engrossing read and certainly informative.

I can't say that I either like or admire Aimee.  Considering the political situation at the time travelling to Germany to marry a man and choosing to remain in such an unstable country seems to me outright selfish and irresponsible.  If you want to put yourself in danger, fine, but once she started having children (ultimately six) she really needed to grow up and think about them instead of her.  Unfortunately, her epiphany didn't come until after the war had already started.  She never would have been put in such situations had she not been a spoiled and inconsiderate brat.  

What frustrates me the most is that Aimee is portrayed as some sort of martyr when she clearly was not.  Her family had plenty of money.  She could have returned to the States at any time yet chose to remain in Germany and whine about her circumstances.  It's her fault that she waited too long to get out.  And it's offensive to compare her experiences to those who wanted to get out of the country but couldn't because they didn't have the means to do so.  She had the means but she was too stupid to take advantage of them.  She created her situation and then refused to take any sort of responsibility for it.

Overall though, this is well written and a story that is an interesting if not particularly enjoyable read.  If you are interested in the time period then this provides a unique perspective on the events.

★★★☆☆ = Liked It



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