pregnancy, abortion, childbirth (off screen), descriptive sex, violence, racism
Disclaimer: I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this audiobook. All thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you to Books Forward PR, and Dana Mack for this free copy. All quotes in this review are taken from the Advanced Reader Copy and may change in final publication.
Thank you again so much to Books Forward PR for sending me this audiobook! I love being able to support them and this is my second book – first audiobook – that I got to read and review for them.
Nothing was wrong with the story as a whole. For me, I just wasn’t invested in it as much as I could have been. To me, it felt like this was told just to be told, rather than having some sort of emotional impact on why it would be something I would want or need to read. I adore historical fiction, and I don’t know if I just like a certain trope but this didn’t give me the same feelings that other historical fiction novels usually do.
Let me try to explain.
This story was about the life of Lisi, who is Jewish in a well-off family who is more about the arts – her music – than dudes. Then there’s a dude that ends up seducing her and her father ends up finding out and then there’s that drama. Of course, this dude gets vindictive over Lisi but somehow, they end up being together later on in the novel. I didn’t like that, and I didn’t understand why Lisi was okay to accept his behavior and marry him when she really didn’t want to be married at all. It just didn’t make sense to me.
I know there’s technically two suitors vying for her attention, but with the way this read I didn’t really remember that there were two. I could have just confused them for each other and thought it was the same person, but to me there wasn’t much distinction between the two and the love triangle – or the two suitor thing – didn’t seem necessary. Was it a plot device to make her have premarital sex, which led to the consequences that her and her family had to deal with because of it? That’s kind of the vibe that I got, and it just didn’t seem like a compelling enough reason to be there.
There weren’t any characters that I truly cared for. I don’t have to connect specifically with a character or relate to them due to similar life experiences in order to care for a character while reading about them, so it wasn’t that. It’s just that nobody was compelling enough for me to want to root for, or to feel some sympathy for. Not even Lisi, which would have been the person I would feel sympathy for due to what she went through during the novel.
This doesn’t mean that the book is bad. The writing was done well, and maybe for someone else they would enjoy this novel. I thought that it was interesting that this took place well before WWI, and Mack showing that there were already issues with discrimination between Germans and Jews was great to see. Not great because of what happened, but it gave a bit more insight as to how long these feelings grew between the two before the war even started. This was at the end of the 1890s and there was clear animosity between them. There was a point where people were condemning Lisi’s husband (I honestly forgot his name already) for marrying her because she is a Jewish girl and apparently they don’t make good wives. That’s not the exact quote of course, but it was clear that the Germans felt superior to the Jews, but they were okay with him having access to her family’s money. So there’s that.
Narrators can make or break an audiobook for me, as I’m sure it’s similar with others. If I don’t like a book due to a narrator, I’ll try to read it physically before I give up on it. In this case, since I was due to review the audiobook specifically, I couldn’t switch formats. However, I think it was better for me to listen through this because it would not have held my attention if I tried to read it physically.
Nothing is wrong with this narrator – whose name I forget unfortunately – but for me, she wasn’t one of my favorites. Her voice was just too calming in this case, and I would be so close to falling asleep whenever I listened to the novel. That could also attribute to why I honestly don’t remember much about the novel or more specifics about the characters. They either just sounded too similar, or everything was blurring together. Again, that is what happened in my case, and not a judgement on this narrator at all. I’m sure that others may take better to her narration than I did. In fact, her voice was so calming and pleasing to hear that it would help me fall asleep if I’m ever having a hard time at it.
One of the things that didn’t work well for me in this case was the separation of in-person events and letters. If anything, the letters gave more action and made things seem more interesting than when things were happening in person. I don’t really know why, but even though there were a lot of letters scattered in between the regular commentary.
That’s all really on that. I kind of wish this could have been written more as a set of letters, but I do understand the need for the regular commentary. It would have been interesting hearing Lisi describe the first time she had sex in a letter to her cousin or something.
Again, while I personally didn’t enjoy this book, it is still well written, and clearly well researched. It described a time in Germany that I never knew about, and was very clear in expressing the kind of issues that women during that time were dealing with. Not only women, but Jewish women in particular. This was also a little different from the other historical fiction I have read before, and that could be why I wasn’t as used to it as I would be other novels. I believe you should give it a chance if you normally read historical fiction, if you want to read more about Wilhelmine Germany, or if you just want to try Dana Mack’s writing!