Monday, April 23, 2012
Book Review of Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene
Author: Bette Greene
Type of book: 1940s, South, World War II, Judaism, German, reform school, society, abuse
Year it was published: 1973 (version I have 2000)
The summer that Patty Bergen turns twelve is a summer that will haunt her forever. When her small hometown in Arkansas becomes the site of a camp housing German prisoners during World War II, Patty learns what it means to open her heart. Even though she's Jewish, she begins to see a prison escapee, Anton, not as a Nazi- but as a lonely, frightened young man with feelings not unlike her own, who understands and appreciates her in a way her parents never will. And Patty is willing to risk losing family, friends- even her freedom- for what has quickly become the most important part of her life.
The characters are well rounded and likable to some extent, aside from the parents obviously. I wish I could have understood more of why the father was the way he was. Patty struggles with life and with trying to be perfect so her parents like her, while Anton, although barely seen, has a huge impact on Patty for what seems like the rest of her life by giving her a treasured possession. I do wish that the book has ended slightly differently though. It's also nice that Patty discovers a substitute mother since her own mother lacks maternal qualities. I was confused by the fact that she blamed her Jewishness for not fitting in, but to me personally, it didn't seem as if there are incidents where Patty's religion is prominent.
No matter who, a person is always worth something.
This is in first person narrative from Patty's point of view. I have to be honest that from the title I expected something more dramatic instead of the novel sounding very Southern. Also, for me, the beginning part is boring while almost the ending is exciting. There might be slight disgust with Patty and Anton's relationship due to age difference. I do wish that it would have been explored more why Anton became a soldier. I forget if he was forced or something else.
Bette Greene, who is celebrated for the strong emotional response that readers have to her books, was born in a small Arkansas town. Later she lived in Memphis, Tennessee, and Paris, France. She now lives in Brookline, Massachusetts, with her husband.
Summer of my German Soldier, an ALA Notable Book, a National Book Award finalist, and a 1973 New York Times Outstanding Book of the Year, has become a modern classic. Her other novels published in Puffin are Philip Hall Likes Me. I Reckon Maybe., a 1973 Newbery Honor Book and a 1974 New York Times Outstanding Book of hte Year; Morning is a Long Time Coming, the companion volume to Summer of My German Soldier; and Get on Out of here, Philip Hall.
From the title I think I expected a more of a dramatic language and dialogue instead of the character sounding very southern and somehow, well, ignorant. Even though I spent countless years living in the South myself, for some odd reason I had trouble identifying or liking the narrator although I felt I could relate to her in some ways and in not just in religion. In beginning its hard to understand or like her, but towards the end the story becomes more interesting in my opinion and the character becomes more identifiable.
3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)