Set against the Frankfurt Auschwitz Trials of 1963, this coming-of-age story is about a young female translator caught between societal and familial expectations and her unique ability to speak truth to power as she fights to expose the dark truths of her nation’s past.
... intermittently intriguing ... It’s of interest mostly as a 21st-century perspective on the proceedings, as well as a recent entry in the growing catalog of internal reckonings ... [Hess's] emphasis on repression and the complicated relationship between postwar German youth and their complicit elders is reminiscent of Bernhard Schlink’s far more elegant novel, The Reader ... both [Hess's] third-person narrative, with its frequently switching points of view, and her prose style (at least in translation) are somewhat clunky. Her symbolism — the recurrent motif of fire and ashes, the berry stains resembling blood, the washing of dirty linens — seems heavy-handed, and her characterizations improbable or sketchy. Still, Hess is sufficiently adept at pacing and plot twists, however unlikely, to persuade readers to turn the page ... isn’t the most sure-footed of novels. But it’s an interesting artifact of Germany’s ongoing cultural response to the 20th-century’s most heinous criminal enterprise.
This is one of the most compelling novels about the Frankfurt Trials of 1963, when Germany must once again confront its past, and attempt to justify its individual reasons for doing nothing when so many could smell the greasy smoke coming from the smokestacks of the crematoriums ... compulsive reading, both for the historical account, but also for three-dimensional characters who confront their own flaws, as well as the atrocities of the past ... Although frequently painful to read, The German House is a condemnation of the Nazi past, but also an exploration of survivors’ guilt, as well as families in conflict.
The time line unfolds in alternating points of view from many multilayered characters—Eva, her family members, David, and Jürgen—which may confuse readers ... Fans of Kate Quinn will enjoy this historical fiction tale for the strong female character and rich details. Recommended for additional purchase, as there are better historical fiction choices.