The German Girl Discussion

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Hannah Rosenthal woke up one morning in the spring of 1939 to find that her charmed life had been completely shattered. Germany was on the brink of war, and all she and her best friend Leo, could do was depend on each other.

Hope appeared in the form of the SS St.Louis a transatlantic liner offering Jews safe passage out of Germany. But soon ominous rumours from Cuba undermined the passengers’ fragile sense of safety. From one day to the next, the ship that once was their salvation seemed likely to become their doom.

Seven decades later in New York City, 12 year old Anna Rosen received a strange package, which would lead her and her mother on a journey to Havana to learn the truth about their family’s mysterious and tragic past, and to help her finally understand her place and her purpose in the world.

Pageturners had a mixed response to The German Girl by Armando Lucas Correa. Some liked it and some disliked it and ratings came in with an average of 3 out of 5. It made for a great discussion particularly on the themes of the book – identity, Holocaust, refugees, racism, religion, grief, history repeats and persecution of minorities.

Comments included “not brilliantly written, the parallel stories of Anna and Hannah were too similar, flawed characters, didn‘t think the men were real – they were in the background and shadowy figures, captured the fear in Germany, there was cleverness to the structure, there was irony in her being the German Girl, the ending was pathetic, the book was quite moving, had not heard of the St Louis story before, it was interesting because it was based on fact, he embedded fiction in an non-fiction historical context, the Cuba scenes dragged on a bit, I liked the story when they were on the ship, the captain did everything he could to save them and he’s been acknowledged since, it could have been a Young Adult book with the points of view of two 12 year old girls and the author had experience with subject through his own family.”

Here is the link to the Wikipedia entry about the film Voyage of the Damned based on the SS. St Louis: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voyage_of_the_Damned

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Here is an article about the book A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara mentioned during the discussion: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/jan/20/a-little-life-why-everyone-should-read-this-modern-day-classic

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The next meeting will be held on Wednesday 14 June at 5.30pm to discuss Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert.

Then the July meeting on Wednesday 12th will discuss books on the Miles Franklin Literary Award longlist: https://www.perpetual.com.au/MilesFranklin

Please note this is a change from our initial plans to allow more time to read the longlisted books and for the Library to acquire them.

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