THE GERMAN WOMAN
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt,
2009, $25.00, hc, 320pp.
The German Woman is the story of an English woman, Kate Zwieg, a trained nurse who is married to a German surgeon, Horst Zweig. It is 1919 during WW1 and together they work serving injured soldiers from the battles in East Prussia. Fast forward twenty-five years and Kate is now in London, the summer of 1944, considered the summer that never was. It is now WWII, bombings, air-raids, skeletal framework of once magnificent structures and massive casualties are part of every day life. Kate, is now widowed, when she meets Claus at a political rally. The speaker at the gathering is spewing propaganda falsities to a crowd of onlookers. Kate is incensed by the disinformation and steps forward with a barrage of razor sharp barbs. Claus, or rather Charles, an exiled American with German heritage, works making propaganda films for the Ministry of Information. He is in the crowd and notices Kate, and is attracted to her spirit and he introduces himself to her. Claus is also happens to be a spy supplying valuable information to the German military, although sometimes not as accurate as it should be. He knows his life depends on secrecy and trusting no one, but he meets Kate and romance turns to unexpected love. At some point, he becomes suspicious of Kate and his duality of loyalty will rock his perspicacious resolve. Kate is almost a silent, passive participant as the action is seen through Claus and his struggle.
Paul Griner shows a natural talent of subterfuge as he carefully creates a complex mask of mirrors causing a magicians allusion for the audience to solve. There are passages of beautiful lyrical poetic prose that could fit a musical score.