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About the book: The Munich Girl
Blogger (and gifted cover designer) Jenny Q. kindly included a guest post of mine at her Let Them Read Books historical-fiction blog last week.
The post’s theme came back to the same focus I find so much response about The Munich Girl does:
“The question people asked me at the outset is the same one they still ask: ‘Why Eva Braun?’
“The story’s goal has never been to try to exonerate or ‘redeem’ her, or how she is perceived.
“She also offers a way to look at the reality that human beings are complex. She clearly had a conscience, and acted on it, and, like most of us, tried to make good choices — choices to serve good — when she could.
“She also made ones that served neither herself nor others very well. Do we negate or devalue the contributions that someone makes because they also do things that are misguided, ill-advised, or even personally destructive? Do we not all share this same complexity in experience? These are themes I wanted to explore.
You can find my guest post at the Let Them Read Books Blog:
More about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War:
I’m meeting some awfully nice book bloggers this month as a result of my participation in a blog tour.
First up was Dianne Ascroft, an author originally from Canada, now in the UK. Her novel, Hitler and Mars Bars, the story of a German boy’s journey to manhood in war-torn Germany and post war Ireland, is now in my reading pile as eagerly anticipated reading.
Dianne hosted my novel in an interview, Meeting the Munich Girl, in which she asks creative questions. Here are a few that deal very directly with the experience of writing historical fiction:
How closely did you stick to the historical facts? If you used them loosely, how did you decide whether to deviate from them?
PER: As closely as possible when it came to information from the WWII era and the years that preceded it in Germany. As my husband says, if the characters ride a train on a certain line at a certain time of day, there had to really be one. There’s a lot of factual information in The Munich Girl and I’ve heard from readers that it can be hard to know where the factual leaves off and the fiction begins. It’s easy to know where: in the emotional lives of the characters, including those people that history remembers. That’s where my own attempt to read between the lines of daily life watched for the signs of interior life I could recognize and convey as the story revealed itself.
In an historical novel you must vividly re-create a place and people in a bygone era. How did you bring the place and people you are writing about to life?
PER: This was one of the most delightful parts, for me, as I spent extended spans of time in various locales in Germany that are a part of the story. Also, in the time I spent poring over Eva Braun’s photographs and films, I got to know both the interiors and exteriors of the settings as they appeared during the 1930s and ‘40s. A fun element of research was what has become, for me, a growing collection of vintage postcards that show scenes from that era in many of the settings of the story.
There often seems to be more scope in historical novels for male characters rather than female characters. Do you prefer to write one sex or the other. And, if so, why?
PER: I love stories where there’s a balance that hints at what a world with equality might look and feel like. This novel has a lot more scope for female characters. At its heart is a friendship between two women, one of whom was a megalomaniac’s mistress, and the effect their emotional intimacy had in each of their lives, and in the lives of those who came along in a next generation.
You can f ind the rest of Dianne’s interview here:
A big gift right at the outset was the review left for the book at Goodreads by Whitney of First Impressions Reviews:
“This was not the case in The Munich Girl. Peggy’s diary entries were applied seamlessly blending past with the present. I yearned to enter the streets of 1940s Germany and discover the meaning behind a simple portrait and view the forging of an unlikely friendship. Phyllis Edgerly Ring has written a superbly researched novel of a historical figure whose’ story is impeccably told.”
Find more about the book at:
In the experience of writing fiction, I become captivated by place.
Sometimes, it is among the very first of the story’s “characters” to appear.
In the process of writing The Munich Girl, I’ve accumulated four journals and three photo-album-style scrapbooks. I’ve done this last, I suspect, because the best-known of the novel’s characters, Eva Braun, was a passionate photographer.
Yet so many of the images and passages recorded in those journals and albums are about the essence of places.
I imagine that I’m drawn to the spirit of places, which I have been since my earliest memories (they go back as far as age 3, possibly a little earlier) because, as Antoine de Saint-Exupéry wrote about what the Sahara Desert taught him:
“Every man, every woman, carries in heart and mind the image of the ideal place, the right place, the one true home, known or unknown, actual or visionary.”
Place is an essential element of the story, of course.
As some have said, often in a book’s story, place is also character, or a facet of the story that reveals aspects of character.
An Aboriginal proverb observes:
“We are all visitors to this time, this place.
We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love … and then we return home. “
Along the way, the places that we pass through have a lot to reveal to us.
Carl Jung lived nearly half of his life in a home he built in the village of Bolligen located along the northern shore of Lake Zurich, Switzerland. In this place, to which he felt particularly drawn, Jung wrote about his many sensory experiences published in his memoir, Memories, Dreams, Reflections:
“At Bolligen I am in the midst of my true life, I am most deeply myself …
At times I feel as if I am spread out over the landscape and inside things, and am myself living in every tree, in the splashing of the waves, in the clouds and the animals that come and go, in the procession of the seasons …
In Bolligen, silence surrounds me almost audibly, and I live ‘in modest harmony’ with nature.”
In “The Power of Place,” writer Linda Sechrist has written: “Since we personally interpret the qualities, values, and spaces that make a place special in the context of other places, childhood experiences of where we are born and grow up, as well as the places where we spent our childhood summers, are the well of memories from which we most frequently draw.
“This relationship is one that Eudora Alice Welty suggests we, in the words of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, carry within ourselves as ‘postage stamps of native soil.’
In her poem, “Wild Geese,” poet Mary Oliver sums this up eloquently:
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
~ from Dream Work by Mary Oliver
Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War at:
When book blogger Melissa Lee invited me to share a guest post at her blog this week, it was a chance to reflect on the writing and research for The Munich Girl, and some of the things that these uncovered for me.
“While Eva Braun is famous because of someone infamous, this Munich girl came from what would be perceived both then and now as an extremely ‘ordinary’ life. …
“Lots of assumptions and judgments about her have masked key information that her life could provide about Hitler. Paradoxically, although much of what has been conveyed about her was based on presumed understanding about him, it’s a more complete picture of her that can provide the most accurate view of Hitler.
“She loved him, I have no doubt. Yet, in many ways, she gave up both her sense of self and of self-determination to ‘prove’ that love, show her loyalty. (Loyalty was very important to Hitler, who trusted so poorly, if at all. But he trusted her.)
“I think the distorted self-denial she showed is still cultivated in collective culture today in ways designed to keep inequality in place. Many, especially women, give up the freedom of their own wholeness for the sake of proving love, and loyalty. I think the false value this behavior is given is a big part of what allows oppression and repression to continue, along with the imbalance of power that always accompanies them.
“I suppose it’s natural that people might assume this novel aims to exonerate or redeem Eva Braun, but that’s never been its goal. She came to represent, for me, the many things that we can form conclusions about without ever delving deep enough to uncover the whole story, in order to genuinely find truth. If the story aims to convey any sort of message, it’s that no human being is all good or all bad, and human circumstances are always more complex than they appear. If we’re not willing to accept and understand this, we’re unlikely to learn from history. …”
You can find the entire guest post about The Munich Girl at Melissa Lee’s Many Reads Blog:
July marks the eighth month since The Munich Girl published — the sixth, if you count its Kindle version, which appeared around the corner of the new year.
And July is when book bloggers — and I’ve connected with so many wonderful ones since the novel’s release — reach a half-way mark in their reading and book-reviewing year.
Two of them have been especially generous to The Munich Girl, and to me.
Melissa Lee’s Many Reads Blog has shared about the book repeatedly, plus it’s helping Canadian readers learn about and connect with it.
This month, Melissa shared her “Top 10 Favourite Books with Less than 2,000 Goodreads Ratings (in no particular order).”
I was delighted to see The Munich Girl on her list: http://mlsmanyreads.blogspot.com/2016/07/top-10-tuesday-top-10-books-that-have.html
Like Melissa, who is going to host a guest post of mine in the coming weeks, blogger Book Club Mom Barb Vitelli has offered several posts that mention or introduce the book this year, including a very kind and appreciative review.
Recently, one of her posts, “A Quick Look Back at The Good Stuff” included The Munich Girl in the company of some very illustrious works. I’m honored, as I know Barb’s a reader who understands some of the novel’s very deepest intentions, and she read it — and reflected on it – with great thoughtfulness, as Melissa did.
One heart-boosting image from Barb’s post:
The rest of Barb’s Book Club Mom post is here:
And you can find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War here: