Saturday, April 14, 2007

Hitler's Daughter (TBR and Decades challenge)

Jackie French's Hitler's Daughter is a novel that shouldn't work -- yet it does. The premise is certainly original: in contemporary Australia, a young girl, Anna, entertains her friends by spinning a tale about Hitler's daughter, Heidi. Hitler never publicly acknowledges his relationship to Heidi (possibly because she has a physical disability) but does visit occasionally; she is kept hidden away, cared for by a governess devoted to the party. In many ways, it’s a story about secrets and deliberate blindness – not just about Heidi’s existence, but also about the camps into which people disappear; the petty thefts and pilfering (the cook, for example, takes scraps of food to feed her family); the black market trade as resources become scarce; the steady increase in lies and the decision not to see unpleasant truths.

The latter mindset carries over into the contemporary storyline: Anna’s tale causes Mark, one of her auditors, to ask questions about his family’s past and about current events. But his queries – about how his grandfather acquired land formerly occupied by the Aborigines, about news reports of genocide “in that place with the funny name . . . a long way away,” and about similar issues – are dismissed by his busy parents. The point is reinforced by a nightmare in which Hitler tells him, “You are all my children. . . None of you question. You are all Hitler’s children.”

There are no tidy solutions to the issues raised (and, perhaps ironically, the main storyline receives closure only by hinting at yet another secret), but that contributes to the book’s impact; it’s a tale one remembers. What makes all of this more impressive is the brevity – French manages to create two storylines with appealing characters and memorable scenes in a scant 121 pages (with wide margins and generous leading, no less).


Blogger booklogged said...

I think this book sounds very interesting. Am adding it to the long TBR list. Thanks for the fine review.

2:25 PM  

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