I will speak first on the section of the book that we started off with. I was drawn in right away by the writing. It’s effortless reading, in that the images come so easily to the mind. I always wonder, when I’m reading something that is translated from another language, if something of the writer’s magic will be lost. Well, if that’s the case here, I can only imagine what a treat it is to read this book in the original German.
Angelika Schrobsdorff’s story of her mother is woven together by threads from her own memory, the accounts of others, and most importantly, her mother’s own journals and letters. Thus far in the book, we have met Else as a young lady, growing up with her doting parents and brother, in wartime (WWI) Berlin. A spirited young woman, Else defies her parents wishes for a good, Jewish husband, and elopes with the love of her life, Fritz. Cut off by her parents, Else and Fritz live a life of hardship and poverty. It’s not until Else’s brother dies, that her parents welcome her back into the fold. By this time, she has an infant son, Peter. He becomes the center of his grandparents’ world. The young family are given a home, money, furnishings and everything that they have lacked in their life together thus far.
I’m always fascinated by tales of young love. Else and Fritz are classic star-crossed lovers. Intoxicated by each other, they put themselves through great torment to be together. Fritz, an artist and intellectual, not to mention a Christian, is the opposite of the man to whom Else’s parents had promised her. It’s very interesting really, because the story of their love takes place about 100 years ago, yet this story continues to play out today. If Else and Fritz had been allowed to form a relationship under normal circumstances, would their love have been as strong? Did the secrecy and sneaking about contribute to the excitement of their affair? Or, is it the opposite? Perhaps the constant stress and strain on their relationship meant that it was doomed to fail from the start. I think maybe both theories are true to an extent.
When Else learns of Fritz’s extra-marital dalliances, my heart went out to her. As was mentioned in the book, this was clearly a turning point for her. The writer and her sources assessed that something was lost in her that day. I can’t imagine sacrificing as much as she had for Fritz, only to have him humiliate her by having multiple affairs. With her friends! If I could reach through time, I would strangle Fritz. I can tell you now, that if I caught my husband cheating, and he tried to play the but I’m an artist card… no, sir.
At this point in the book, Else has just given birth to Bettina, a daughter by Hans, her lover. Else, Fritz, Enie and Hans are all living together. I am always fascinated by these sorts of arrangements. It might seem all fine and dandy, but I think the human heart is just not made for such delicate situations. I like that Else has the power now, I’m very curious to see where it leads her.