As I’m sitting in front of the laptop trying to review “The Munich Girl”, an historical fiction / romance novel by Phyllis Edgerly Ring, my mind stutters. How does one sum-up an emotional roller-coaster ride, which not only sees the highs and lows of its protagonist’s story but of WWII, Adolf Hitler and Eva Brown.
Anna is anything but a confident woman. She is normally full of self -doubt, and does her best to attend to her husband’s needs and demands, serving as both his academic editor, and housewife, while helping him to cost-effectively run his late father’s WWII magazine.
All this is about to change, as Anna discovers a link between her late mother Peggy (who’s half German) and Eva Brown, the notorious tyrant’s mistress. A simple article which Anna sets upon to write for the magazine spirals into a quest after her mother’s old life in Germany during the war, when an old manuscript that Peggy had written resurfaces.
Oh, and there’s Hannes. The mysterious German who pops into her life and seems to be on top everything, especially when she needs him the most. This is a story within a story within a story, that will take us on a journey to Eva Brown’s life story.
I am rather ambiguous about “The Munich Girl”. Let’s start with the one undoubtful thing: Ms. Ring’s writing is superb. It is fluent, descriptive and accurate. The fact that some of the dialogues are in German (and translated) does not hurt the above, and in fact that is hardly noticed. Great job by the author on that front.
The fact that Anna discovers a manuscript is okay, however Anna’s time-line is not continuous. It’s divided to before/after a significant event, and I have found myself struggling at times to understand whether this is the “pre-event” Anna or not.
While the story itself is very compelling, and has twists and turns, some plot milestones were a bit too “convenient” for me. Without giving away any spoilers: While the Peggy/Eva Brown manuscript was fascinating, I found Anna’s story hard to believe, especially her husband’s fate, who is probably the most underdeveloped character in the book.
In a complete contrast, all the other characters were extremely developed and complex, which brings to my ultimate issue with “The Munich Girl”:
The novel gives a voice to Eva Brown, portraying her in a complex psychological light, and at times as kind and compassionate. Personally, whether Ms. Brown was like that or not, I find it hard to cope with novels which romanticize, to any extent, Nazi Germany and its key figures. Sure, there were good Germans at the time, yet I think their contribution to the German history is negligible compared to the atrocities done by the German state and its accomplices.
Whether Eva Brown was among them or not, is irrelevant, she has made her historical choice by being the lover of a mad mass murderer, and standing by his side (and if she indeed prevented his order to execute the POWs in Germany as this novel claims, it was too little too late).
I had a similar issue with “Alone in Berlin” by Hans Fallada, but while “Alone in Berlin” handles the lives of everyday people, I found that Ms. Ring – perhaps unintentionally – had made the Hitler-Brown relationship to a touching love affair. A stone that I thought would have been best left unturned.
The novel gets 4/5 stars, I did enjoy reading it, although as I mentioned it has some complications. I’ll let you be the moral judges of the historical events.
The reviewer is the author of “And the Wolf Shall Dwell“, a political-spy thriller.