February’s the month in which two characters in my novel share a birthday.
Like me, all three women in The Munich Girl have strong connections with Germany, where two of them meet just before World War II.
Eva Braun, always wanted to live the life of a character in a movie or novel. However, as many women have, and still do, she gives her life away to someone who hasn’t the capacity to value it, or, it would seem, to care for humanity at all.
“Did she really love him? How could she ever love him?” are questions I hear frequently about the woman who became “Mrs. Hitler” for the last day and a half of her life.
Anna, the story’s narrator grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother, Peggy, and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief and a man named Hannes Ritter, whose Third-Reich family history is entwined with her own.
These lead her (much as I’ve been led) into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who became a tyrant’s consort and her mother’s confidante. As she retraces a friendship that began when two lonely teenagers forged a bond that endured throughout the war, even though the men they loved had opposing ambitions, Anna realizes that she has suppressed her own life nearly as much as Hitler’s mistress did. Ultimately she and Hannes discover how the love in one friendship echoes on in two families until it unites them at last.
It’s a grace to have stories come to find me and, like a kind and patient companion, stay with me, until I catch up with them to find the way home to the finish.
In the instance of this novel, the story began by dropping clues, two of the biggest, a handkerchief just like the one Anna finds — and the portrait of Eva Braun, which, somehow, found me, too. It’s what made the process unstoppable, a path that has unrolled itself before me over the last seven years and seems to have recreated my own life, from the inside-out.
Because of that, something memoir-like about this novel’s coming into being is a likely next step. Also, because of the amount of response I’ve received about Eva Braun’s story as a motif for looking at women’s lives, and the state of our world, a work about her seems inevitable, too.
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