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September 2014 Debut of the Month.
Shortlisted for the 2014 Baileys Women's Prize for Fiction.
An exceptional and totally engrossing debut novel, viewing WWII from an unfamiliar perspective. We are introduced to an ordinary German family in extraordinary times; they make some perplexing and disturbing decisions, is this in order to prosper or survive? The understated and restrained writing style perfectly suits the complex subject matter, allowing you to become absorbed in the central characters lives. At the beginning, while the war is at a distance and triumph seems inevitable, you are kept quite deliberately detached from Katharina and Peter but as the full horror of war gets ever closer, you discover just how much the human soul can endure.
The author takes you on a journey, subtly and quietly introducing you to the Nazi party, where the family start to climb the career ladder of glamour and success. In the battle for Stalingrad, the writing is so simple yet stirring; hunger, loss, pain, cold, fear and ultimately survival all crying out from the page. Towards the end, the final feelings of guilt and the search for absolution (which were initially so conspicuously absent) are written with great insight and consideration. This is such a stimulating and thought provoking novel, you will be left questioning and wondering “what would I have done”? ~ Liz Robinson
Desperate to escape the Eastern front, Peter Faber, an ordinary German soldier, marries Katharina Spinell, a woman he has never met; it is a marriage of convenience that promises 'honeymoon' leave for him and a pension for her should he die on the front. With ten days' leave secured, Peter visits his new wife in Berlin; both are surprised by the attraction that develops between them. When Peter returns to the horror of the front, it is only the dream of Katharina that sustains him as he approaches Stalingrad. Back in Berlin, Katharina, goaded on by her desperate and delusional parents, ruthlessly works her way into the Nazi party hierarchy, wedding herself, her young husband and their unborn child to the regime. But when the tide of war turns and Berlin falls, Peter and Katharina, ordinary people stained with their small share of an extraordinary guilt, find their simple dream of family increasingly hard to hold on to...
In addition to our Lovereading expert opinion some of our Lovereading Reader Review Panel were also lucky enough to read and review this title.
A soldier fighting on the Russian front for the German Army desperate to escape the ‘stinking hell-hole’, Faber agrees to marry Katharina, whom he has never met, as it means he will get leave in Berlin to meet her. Remark-ably, they get on, and Faber’s honeymoon is extended when his father-in-law’s high-ranking Nazi friend Dr Weinart finds work for him rounding up the capital’s Jews for deportation. On his return, Faber finds the Russian front even more of a hell-hole, but he now has something to fight for after Katharina gives birth to their son.
'Brutal but brilliant... Full of heart-pounding suspense... Magee offers an insight both into the deprivation experienced by ordinary soldiers and the excesses of those in power... An impressive, even stunning debut'
'An engaging and beautifully written novel, with an emotional resonance that remains long after you've closed the book. It succeeds in doing what only the best historical novels can do - making the past feel present --Independent A feat of high-wire empathy'
'A violent, elegant, unsentimental journey through hell and halfway back. This is an outstanding novel by a writer of huge talent and unusual candour.'
'The Undertaking is written with sympathy and skill. The narrative is tense and engaging, filled with complex undertones, impelled by an urgency and a deep involvement with the characters'.
'A bold and unsettling feat of empathy, all the more daring for its taut, beautifully understated style'
Publication date: 04/09/2014
Publisher: Atlantic Books
Publication date: 06/02/2014
Publisher: Atlantic Books
|Publication date:||4th September 2014|
|Genres:||Reader Reviewed Books, Debuts of the Month, eBook Favourites, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction,|
|Categories:||Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945),|
Audrey Magee worked for twelve years as a journalist and has written for, among others, The Times, The Irish Times and the Guardian. She has a Masters degree in journalism from Dublin City University and an honours Bachelor of Arts degree in German and French from University College Dublin. She lives in Wicklow with her husband and three daughters. The Undertaking is her first novel. Author photo © Patrick RedmondMore About Audrey Magee