Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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Love, friendship, and the Munich girl Hitler chose

Heartfelt thanks to book blogger and author Lisa Binion for hosting me and The Munich Girl so kindly — plus offering a great interview experience.

When you first learned about Hitler and Eva Braun, did you think of either of them as having friends?
I don’t think that Hitler really had the capacity for friendship. It requires a sort of mutuality of which he just wasn’t capable.

But Eva Braun, characterized by many who knew her as warm, thoughtful, and full of love for life, most surely was. Regardless of how people make assumptions about her based on her link with Hitler, history shows that she was a genuinely caring friend to those who, in addition to being morally respectable people, were very appreciative for her friendship. As with the situation in the novel’s story, some of them did not know of her connection with Hitler until after her death.

What inspired you to write about the friendship of two lonely women in Nazi Germany? Do you know of someone who made a discovery similar to what Anna discovered?
I chose this focus, in part, because friendships were what helped many everyday Germans survive the war. Such friendships were also what helped protect and save those who were most vulnerable to persecution by the Nazis. Also, I was taken by the paradox that two people could know and care about – value – each other yet never know about complexities in each of their lives that could seem to put them on different “sides.”

As for what Anna discovers about Peggy (her mother), my own war bride mother had many surprising secrets in her background, revealed only after she died. Some of them, much like Peggy’s friendship with Eva Braun, were things she might not, in her own history, have felt safe to share.

What is your favorite thing about writing historical fiction?
I love revisiting a time period and immersing myself deeply within it. An added plus is looking at it with the hindsight we have now.

The tricky balance in writing the story, of course, is to be able to stay in the perspective of those times, even when you do have that hindsight. Realizing that many events were something people of that time didn’t know about or couldn’t see coming shows how much trying to judge them from the perspective we have today is unrealistic and even unjust. One very important reason for us to study history—and reflect on what patterns we can find there—is that without that reflective understanding, we will imitatively repeat it.

Obviously Eva Braun and Hitler really existed, but how many of the other characters were taken from history?
The two individuals to whom the book is dedicated, and who are each referenced in the story, were under-recognized heroes in their time. Poet/artist Erich Mühsam and Jesuit priest Father Alfred Delp each resisted what the Nazis were doing. They took enormous risks to help others who were being persecuted, and ultimately paid with their lives—Mühsam in a concentration camp in 1934 and Delp by execution by the Nazis close to the end of the war.

The stories of both men came to me quite serendipitously as the novel was unfolding. I felt it was as though those stores wanted to surface, to be known.

You can find Lisa’s full interview, along with a review of The Munich Girl here:

http://lisaswritopia.com/phyllis-edgerly-ring-interview-the-holocaust-eva-braun-and-friendship/

 


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Between the Beats hosts The Munich Girl

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My deep gratitude to author and book reviewer Elizabeth Horton-Newton, who wrote a wonderfully insightful review for The Munich Girl.

Her kind hospitality as blog-tour host included an interview with me. Among her good questions:

What kind of response have you received for your depiction of Eva Braun?

A broad range that includes those who connect, even empathize with the character of Eva, those who connect with the story but struggle with connecting with her, and those who absolutely don’t want to connect with her, who object to her being there at all. I’ve been astonished when readers who I might not expect to easily relate to her – those whose families experienced huge losses during the Holocaust, for example – actually have a lot of empathy for what she reveals as a character. One editor asked early in the book’s process, “How are you going to get people past the fact it’s her?” I knew I wasn’t. Readers are either willing to go that distance or they’re not. It’s never been my intent to redeem her in any way, but rather for her to act as a motif for the self-suppression and repression that are still rampant in many lives. For me, she also represents that we are a mixture of strengths and character deficiencies, and we make a meaningful life through the choices we make in relation to those. eb-pix-germany-and-more-672-e1423236371410

I understand you met and interviewed some people who knew the “subject” of your search? How did you find them and how did they feel about discussing their relationships with you?

They “found” me — as with so much in the process of this book, it led me to them, and they were most willing to share their thoughts. One of the most helpful was from a family that had been treated very badly by the Nazis. She had every reason to hate them, and Eva Braun by association. But she had met and interacted with her and described her as a person of true character. She’d been as baffled as so many have about why Eva would care for Hitler. But this source emphasized how thoughtful and kind Eva Braun often was.

What was your ultimate goal in writing this book? Did that goal change over time?

munich-girl-by-phyllis-edgerly-ringInitially, it was to give a glimpse into the experience of Germans during the war, and show how varied it was. Though they lived in a very dangerous place they could not necessarily escape, many Germans took risks to help and protect others, but many of these stories got lost once they were seen as part of the “losing enemy” country.  Within the first year of writing, I also began to accept that the goal, to the best of my ability, was to convey themes that the story was suggesting. These include that any good we seek to do will always have enduring effect, sometimes for successive generations. Another is that it is our willingness to build what is good, together, that is the legacy of love that always outlasts war, destruction, and violence.

Find Elizabeth’s full post here:

https://elizabethnnewton.com/2017/02/17/the-munich-girl-by-phyllis-edgerly-ring/


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The Munich Girl: the secrets we keep

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Wassily Kandinsky, “Houses in Munich,” 1908

Reviewer and author Barb Taub has done The Munich Girl a big service with her insightful review:

“With her book, The Munich Girl, author Phyllis Edgerly Ring points out that an entire nation can’t be understood or explained with one label.

‘She does this by examining the life of one almost-invisible woman: Eva Braun, the “Munich Girl’ who was Hitler’s mistress from the time the seventeen-year-old girl met the man over twenty years her senior until their wedding followed a day later by her suicide at his side when she was 33. image13_zps7eb8aca8

“Although The Munich Girl has the feel of a memoir, it is a historical fiction that tells the story of three women. We first meet Anna, an American woman married to history professor Lowell. Anna has grown up in a house full of secrets, one of which is her father Rod’s war-spoils portrait that has hung in their dining room all her life. The second is her mother, Peggy, who has died just before the story begins. And of course, the third is Eva, and her doomed relationship with Adolf Hitler. As Anna is clearing out Peggy’s house, she comes across a manuscript that tells both Peggy’s story and that of her unlikely friend, Eva.

image-58034-galleryv9-bfrq-277x300“Anna’s story is told in alternating points of view. First we have her own experience as a child born in Germany at the end of the war, but raised in the United States. Having grown up feeling like an outsider and desperate to belong, she subverts her entire life into supporting her husband Lowell’s career and goals. When he orders her to work at an inherited family magazine that he thinks will help his career, she is at first reluctant but then captivated by her assignments, including Eva Braun’s story. But most of all she’s drawn to the magazine’s German-American editor, Hannes. But when Anna finds that her mother knew Eva Braun, and when she starts to suspect that Peggy’s secrets go beyond the portrait signed with Adolf Hitler’s initials, Anna’s interest becomes an obsession.

“This is an amazing story full of layers and meaning. The settings are beautifully detailed and seem both timeless and perfectly anchored in their little bubbles of time. But within those stories, author Phyllis Edgerly Ring has created three fully-realized women who are very different, but who manage to have so many themes in common. 12342460_10208150312625888_7743673090992892225_n

“One theme is the deals women make with themselves to allow others to achieve happiness or satisfaction, often by denying themselves those very things.

“Another theme is the secrets we keep from others and from ourselves. The one question that history demands of Germany—how could you follow a monster like Hitler?—is brought down to the personal level. Why would Eva remain with Hitler?”goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70

 

Find the rest of Barb’s review at Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show?id=1499833670


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Thoughts from A Bookish Affair

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My thanks to blogger Meg Wessell for making time for my novel, The Munich Girl, recently and sharing her thoughts about it.

The Story – summary from Goodreads.com:

‘Anna Dahlberg 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 and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third Reich family history is entwined with Anna’s. IMG_20151119_170505050

“Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante—and a tyrant’s lover—Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged. With Hannes’s help, she retraces the path of two women who met as teenagers, shared a friendship that spanned the years that Eva Braun was Hitler’s mistress, yet never knew that the men they loved had opposing ambitions. … ‘  98705320ea6e23717b933df6244c09dd

My Two Cents: Eva Braun is infamous. Even as a history lover, I did not know much about her at all besides the fact that she was Hitler’s mistress.

“This book sheds light on the fact that at one point, she was just another German schoolgirl as Peggy, Anna’s mother is in this book.

“The juxtaposition between who she was and who she became was absolutely fascinating. It is easy to see how the author was drawn to telling this story.”

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Find Meg’s review post at her blog, A Bookish Affair:

http://abookishaffair.blogspot.com/2016/10/review-munich-girl-by-phyllis-edgerly.html


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The legacies that outlast

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Image: Cary Enoch / https://enochsvision.com/

In these times when writing and publishing a book can feel like pinning a leaf in a forest, book bloggers are some of a writer’s very kindest friends.

I’m grateful to reviewer Courtney of Incessant Bookworm blog for her insightful response to The Munich Girl:

“Ring incorporates some unique twists that in the end wind into my believing that everything happens for a reason and what may seem random and irrelevant becomes groundbreaking.

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Photo: Diane Kirkup

“Two moving passages from the story encompass the main take away for me – coincidentally on the same page – and have a strong and clear parallel to the subtitle:

‘Sometimes, we must outlast even what seems worse than we have imagined, because we believe in the things that are good. So that there can be good things again.’

‘I’m realizing now that war leaves so many different kinds of legacies … Some stay buried. Many are part-truths that become legends or myths. Many others are what we know are there but try to deny or ignore.’

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Find the review from Courtney’s Incessant Bookworm Blog here at Goodreads:

https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/1566157867

 

IMG_2408Also, a Giveaway for

The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War

continues at Stacie Theis’s Beach Bound Books Blog:

http://www.beachboundbooks.com/2/post/2016/02/the-munich-girl-by-phyllis-edgerly-ring-book-review-giveaway.html


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Memes & themes: her own happiness

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Thank you so much, reviewer Teresa Kander, for your good words about The Munich Girl at your MemesandFiction blog.

While the novel is often characterized as historical fiction, and a book about Eva Braun, I especially appreciate that you pointed out in your review some of the themes that make it women’s fiction, too:

“… a story of three women, two from the past and one from the present. …

e85122fbfe40858b217860458137e3e1Each of the women chooses to put the happiness of someone else above the happiness of herself, which we see have adverse consequences for each of them.”

 

munichgirl_card_frontFind Teresa’s thoughts at:

http://linkis.com/www.bloglovin.com/bl/zQOlf

 

More information about

The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies that Outlast War

can be found here: http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/


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“Uncomplicated read of a complex situation”

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A room where Eva Braun likely did a lot of her own reading. Photo courtesy of Third Reich in Ruins.

I believe it’s writers’ biggest privilege to have others read their work. After all, our world has more books in it than ever before.

When book reviewers (who are, most often, inundated with authors’ requests for reviews) make the time to read, reflect on, and write a review for a book, it’s nothing short of supreme generosity.

As The Munich Girl makes its way out into a world of readers, it’s a gift each time a reviewer shares response to the novel. This week, writer Carol Sampson has offered her thoughts about it at her blog, and also introduced a new circle of her own readers to the book.

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Writer and reviewer Carol Sampson

Back in November when the book’s print version published, Carol was the very first person to respond when, hunched over my laptop in my good friend’s guest room in Germany, I searched for book bloggers who might be interested in giving the book that increasingly rare resource: their time. I was especially grateful to connect with Carol, who, like my mother, is from the UK.

It’s an extra bonus when a reviewer recognizes both the themes and the intent that The Munich Girl is meant to convey. Carol notes that the novel reflects my own interest “in people, their relationships, and the effects we all have on one another in the decisions we make. Each character reveals different aspects of humanity and gives an insight into the human condition.”

12342460_10208150312625888_7743673090992892225_nDescribing the story as a weaving of history and fiction that’s “an uncomplicated read of a complex situation,” she kindly credits it with  “offering an understanding of the intricacies of relationships.”

With my deepest thanks to Carol, I encourage you to read her full review at the link below and, while you’re there, check out the other great recent post she’s done called “Who am I to judge?”

 

Link to Carol Sampson’s review here:

http://carolsampson.co.uk/blog/the-munich-girl-a-novel-of-the-legacies-that-outlast-war/