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A real page-turner

May 12, 2008 - Cindy Votruba
For more than two years, I've belonged to a book club. A few of the books we've read since I've joined have taken place in the World War II era: "Suite Francaise" by Irene Nemirovsky and "A Thread of Grace" by Mary Doria Russell. This month, "Those Who Save Us" by Jenna Blum was selected. I thought, "oh joy, another World War II book." Then I looked at how long it was, 479 pages. Yuck. We jokingly say we always choose books that have evil men or women overcoming a hardship. OK, this book has both, with a German woman basically having to survive by becoming the mistress of a Nazi officer.

I started reading the book when I was coming back from Philadelphia. I was nervous that I wasn't going to make my connecting flight from MSP to Sioux Falls as the first plane was delayed. I pushed all that worry aside and dove into the book. My earlier thoughts vanished. I was hooked. Just like "Water For Elephants" by Sara Gruen, I couldn't put it down. By the time I reached Sioux Falls, I had read 260 pages.

The book is about Anna Schlemmer, who has a daughter, Trudy by a Jewish doctor. Eventually, the doctor is caught and sent to Buchenwald. Anna goes to live with a baker who smuggles bread to the prisoners at the camp. When the baker is executed, Anna is also suspected of smuggling bread. To survive, she has a more than two-year affair with the Obersturmfuhrer. After the war ends, she and Trudy are liberated by an American soldier, Jack.

When she gets older, Trudy becomes a professor of German history in Minnesota. She embarks on a project in which she interviews Germans and their role in the war. During those interviews, she remembers those days her mother was involved with the Nazi officer. Anna says nothing about that time. She chooses not to remember. That is the past.

It was a compelling book that I finished this weekend. What I like about book club, which other members have said, is that it gets me to read books that I wouldn't normally pick off the shelf. Next month, a Jane Austen book club is also starting at Bound to Read. The first selection is "Pride and Prejudice." I've been meaning to read that book for years. Guess this will be the push I need.


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