The Ger­man Girl

by Ar­mando Lu­cas Cor­rea, Si­mon & Schus­ter.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - BOOKS -

Although Ar­mando Lu­cas Cor­rea’s novel is based on the Sec­ond World War, it feels in­cred­i­bly top­i­cal. This is a story about the des­per­ate plight of refugees, of what hap­pens when bor­ders are closed and ba­sic hu­man­ity is over­come by fear and prej­u­dice. Cor­rea is a jour­nal­ist and the in­grained sense of pur­pose in his de­but work of fic­tion gives this new win­dow on the hor­rific con­se­quences of Nazi Ger­many a sense of elec­tric ur­gency. The novel is told through two cap­ti­vat­ing nar­ra­tors in al­ter­nate chap­ters. First is Han­nah Rosen­thal, an almost 12-year-old Jewish girl who, un­til now, has known a bour­geois life in 1939 Ber­lin. Han­nah spends her days roam­ing the city with her best friend, Leo, but Ber­lin is chang­ing. Han­nah and Leo are now spat upon and sneered at and ev­ery­where is stench and ug­li­ness. Han­nah’s mother is the needy Alma, an opera singer with an over-dra­matic na­ture; her fa­ther, Max, a univer­sity pro­fes­sor. As Ber­lin turns against them, the fam­ily must flee. Max se­cures tick­ets on the St Louis, a liner of­fer­ing pas­sage to Cuba, where the govern­ment has promised safe haven for Jewish refugees. Leo and his fa­ther also man­age to se­cure places. In­ter­spersed with this story is Anna Rosen’s; an Amer­i­can girl who on her 12th birthday re­ceives a pack­age from her great-aunt, Han­nah, con­tain­ing neg­a­tives of pho­to­graphs she has never seen be­fore. Anna longs to know more about her ab­sent fa­ther and these pho­tos are the cat­a­lyst to con­nect with her his­tory and even­tu­ally meet her great-aunt in Cuba. We soon learn that while Han­nah and her mother ended up in Cuba, her fa­ther and Leo didn’t make it. The au­thor­i­ties re­neged on their prom­ise, only al­low­ing 28 of the 937 pas­sen­gers ashore, the rest forced to re­turn to Europe, where most per­ished. It’s an in­cred­i­ble story, and one based on real events, which Cor­rea out­lines at the end of the book.

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