Knowing the truth and speaking the truth are two very different things. But in Annette Hess’s coming-of-age, international bestseller, The German House (with translations by Elisabeth Lauffer), Eva Bruhns must find that balance in order to navigate the murky waters of familial obligation and the Frankfurt Trials.
Before she is hired by the investigator David Miller, twenty-four-year-old Eva dreamed of the day she could leave the house she grew up in with her parents and sister. She wondered when her well-to-do beau, Jürgen Schoormann, would whisk her off her feet with a proposal and into a life of their own. But the moment she accepts the job as a translator in a war crimes trial, Eva begins to question all she knew and all she wanted. Set in 1963, this depiction of post-WWII Frankfurt offers readers a glimpse of a city eager to regain its shiny, unencumbered image in the eyes of the world community. It is as much a story of Eva’s gradual discovery of personal desires and outside expectations versus the greater good, as it is a tale of collective redemption. Hess weaves the two of these storylines together seamlessly, making it so that the reader is never left guessing which lens to peer through at a given point in the plot, but not so much that either loses its significance in the greater narrative.
For those who want an individual’s viewpoint of WWII’s aftermath, and what it took to bring parts of Germany away from those dark connotations, The German House is an honest and unassuming read that will put them on the ground with Eva. As she and the other investigators race toward the truth, she finds that, even in peacetime and decades after the fact, an issue isn’t just painted in black and white. And while Hess does a wonderful job of making sure that the plot unfolds naturally, leaving no reader behind, her audience will learn that there is more than one way to approach a character’s point of view, just as there are several sides to one seemingly straightforward story.