Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details


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BoomerCafé asks, “Why Eva Braun?”

I’m very grateful to author Eric Mondschein and BoomerCafé for featuring an author interview and post about my novel, The Munich Girl, this week.

Here are a few of their thoughtful questions, plus a link to the rest of the article:

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BC: What motivated you to write such a book?

PR: When I reconnected with Germany as an adult after living there in the early 1960s, I wanted to understand more about its experience during WWII. I returned home and was given a biography of Eva Braun written by British-German writer Angela Lambert.

In order to understand Germany and the war, I needed to read more about Hitler and the Third Reich and Eva Braun seemed a likely point of entry. What I never expected was the deeper topics and themes that would arise when I got that close to Hitler’s living room.

BC: What message are you trying to convey to readers?

PR: At least two.

One is that there is a reality that transcends appearances, and we miss a lot of the truth because we don’t investigate it more completely.

This is also a story about outlasting that chaos and confusion of war and destruction by valuing, and believing in, the ultimate triumph of all of the good that we are willing to contribute to building together. Many Germans did this, though until recently, their stories have remained unknown.

The novel is also about the eventual homecoming we must all make to our truest self, and the role that others often mysteriously play in that process.

12342460_10208150312625888_7743673090992892225_nRead the BoomerCafé article here:

https://www.boomercafe.com/2018/06/21/baby-boomer-author-unearths-world-war-ii-intrigue/

More about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War:

https://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast-ebook/dp/B01AC4FHI8

 

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Women, war, and the secrets we keep

Reader and author Ginny Towler has given The Munich Girl the kind of insightful and engaged review at Goodreads a writer can only dream of.

Also, a Giveaway for print copies of The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War is up at Goodreads through May 25 (link below).

Ginny’s kind words:

goodreads_icon_100x100-4a7d81b31d932cfc0be621ee15a14e70     “Phyllis Ring’s writing conjures up a different era, of a 1940s sensibility, where the less said, the more is explained. …

“… That I should feel any sympathy with a woman who was romantically involved with one of the most heinous human beings ever to be brought into this world is disturbing to me.

“Which is one of the reasons why this book is so important.

    “As someone who had loved film most of her life, I had wondered about Eva Braun’s importance to both German cinema and filmography, as I was aware that her films extolled Hitler’s iconography, as it were.

  “… Although the book is labeled fiction, truthfully, it’s hard to believe it is, as the details jump off the page. Phyllis appears to have traced the comings and goings of this enigmatic woman, who, was encamped in her various places of refuge, waiting for her man, Der Fuhrer, to return to her.

“And it is in this capacity that we understand her: a woman of her time period, who turned the other way while her man went off to war, doing these “manly,” but hopelessly imbecilic and crazy things. He would return to her periodically, every couple of weeks or months, while she waited for him, dutifully. Did she remain willfully blind, ignoring the atrocities that were being committed in the name of the Fatherland? Or was she too close to him to even know what he was doing, because when he returned to her, he was her lover, not her military commander?

    “Was the man who could butcher so many people the same man who could come home to her, and luxuriate in the arms of his beloved, exposing his vulnerabilities to her only? I’m not sure we’ll ever know, but there’s an inkling of what Eva probably felt during the years that she was with him (17 years, I seem to count). Was there any redeeming quality in her that makes her seem more human, and less a monster of historic proportions, in our hatred of all things Third Reich? You’ll have to read to find that out for yourself.

“Above all, this book is about women. About friendship. About the way we protect each others’ vulnerabilities. Of the secrets we keep. And about our loyalty to each other, though we carry out our daily lives supporting our men, as that’s what women did, especially back in the day.

“… The story is also a mystery, of the history behind a portrait that hangs in the home of an American woman of English and German descent. It is a story about longing to reconnect with our beloved deceased, of learning the things that our parents could not tell us for fear of destroying our own lives yet to be realized.

Phyllis has done a very brave thing, sharing a history with us that might be part of her own past, on some level. But the care that she took in making it plausible is also a gift to the reader. She dares look at the soul of the German during WWII, and the aftermath, in a reconciliation of sorts, that still hasn’t been accomplished beyond the Nuremberg Trials, except through the bravery of women like Phyllis who are willing to open the door a crack to give us an opportunity to ask questions, ponder, and reconcile our humanity with our inhumanity.

I’m sure I’ll read this book a second time. There are so many layers to it. I found it an irresistible and important read.”

                                                           ~ VL Towler, author, Severed

Goodreads Book Giveaway:

The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

The Munich Girl

by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Giveaway ends May 25  – 15 print copies available.

Enter here: https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/275158-the-munich-girl


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Time, and time again

Image: Judy Wright

It’s my pleasure to share this Guest Post — a zinging slice of flash fiction that takes an interesting temperature of these wild times we find ourselves in.

My big thanks to the writer, who’s also a wonderful sister.

 

The Blue Cupboard

by Tracey Edgerly Meloni

On my 17th birthday, while I was reveling in my Mary Quandt orange mini dress with a fifty-pound note in the pocket, Dudley disappeared into The Blue Cupboard.

Da swore years before my watch that The Blue Cupboard had transported him forward to 1967. The family in Penrith thought he was barking mad; as Uncle Willie said, “We keep mops in The Blue Cupboard, not H.G.-bloody-Wells.”

Da’s ravings about enormous protest marches, masses of hair and women burning their undergarments became ominously real in the news. I believed in him – he was all I had. Mum died having me, although I once overheard Uncle Willie stage-whisper that Da’s time-traveling lunacy was what really killed her.

Anyway, here on my 17th birthday in the real 1967, I follow Scottie Dudley into The Blue Cupboard. The door slams. All fades to black until the door opens again.

The view tells me that Da was right: just like him, I am in Washington, DC and the protest march is still going on. My outfit should fit right in.

“Dunna be so sure, Lassie.” A cartoonish, hairy Scotsman with a ridiculous brogue and awning-like eyebrows takes my arm with gloved hands, his tartan bell-bottoms and purple Edwardian coat making even me stare. Dudley?? He shrugs. “Is me tail covered?”

The Blue Cupboard took us far afield from 1967. These people must be concentration camp survivors: slashed, torn pants, ripped jackets, bald heads. Tattoos. Several have signs protesting the number of children killed in – 2018?? What the hell war is this?

Image: Judy Wright

“Groovy retro! Selfie?” says some ratty woman, throwing her arms around me and shoving a flat thing in my face. She points to a restaurant while dancing away. “Fusion – great falafel and sushi.”

Dudley and I look at each other. “Put your tongue back in your mouth,” I say. We go in. There’s a telly, telling me how spectacular sex would be if only I used the pink-and-blue gel. Then more adverts show a young woman shaving her face, an old woman flaunting her pee-pads (“Speaking of which,” says Dudley, excusing himself. . .)

Thanks to The Blue Cupboard, I’m celebrating being both 17 and 68 among strangers who’ve evidently been killing their children for half a century, while celebrating sex. I’m eating two things I hate with a Scottie dressed up like a psychedelic Dr. Who.

Da?


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Bearing with the unsolved

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L. to R. – Gretl Braun, Eva Braun, the infamous bear, and one of the Braun sisters’ friends on a wintry day in Bavaria.

As I followed the research path of my novel, The Munich Girl, poring over hundreds of photographs from Eva Braun’s albums, there was one whose circumstances remained a complete puzzle.

It pictures her with her younger sister, Gretl, and a friend standing beside what looks like a polar bear. Not a statue or a stuffed one, mind you, but a bear up on its hind legs, “arms” around two of  the women, very much a presence in their midst.

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One of my days at the National Archives, examining Eva Braun’s photo albums.

Susanne Weigand finally helped me solve the mystery this week when she shared an article from the Huffington Post. It describes how photograph collector Jean-Marie Donat discovered a huge cache of photos taken in Germany between the 1920s and the 1960s, all snapped in public places, that show a wide variety of individuals posing with a hairy white bear, just like the one in Eva Braun’s photo.

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U.S. soldiers in war-shattered Germany. Photo from TeddyBär, published by Innocences Bookmaker.

Donat collected these thousands of images over the years and compiled them into a book called TeddyBär. Art critic Klaus Peter Speidel writes, “The images accidentally piece together an alternative history of 20th century Germany, documenting pre-war Nazi soldiers, young German children donning Swastikas, American GIs, and everyday individuals navigating this historical time of terror and upheaval. It’s strange to see individuals isolated from their circumstances, all behaving in a relatively similar, humanizing manner: posing goofily next to a large bear.

Speidel adds: “The images, playful in their time, acquire a bittersweet aftertaste in retrospect, with each jocular shot tugging at our 21st-century memories of war, persecution and loss. In this strange compendium of posing bears and happy bystanders, Donat creates an unlikely timeline of everyday German history, one that, especially in comparison to the photo-happy present, looks frighteningly familiar.”

And one of those happy bystanders, in a photo taken early in the bear’s “career” (probably the early 1930s, judging by Eva’s hair color) was going to wind up famous for reasons she could never begin to imagine.

12369218_10208140857064106_2523709969075442989_nLearn more about “TeddyBär , published by Innocences Bookmaker, and read the entire article here:http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/teddybar-vintage-found-photos-germany_us_56ba222ee4b08ffac122bc5a

 

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


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Reading between history’s lines

bad-homburg-vor-der-hohe-d974I recently unearthed a little treasure from family history that’s supremely timely as I wrap up European scenes in my newest novel, The Munich Girl.

Four small pages of stationery with my mother’s initials at the top are filled with her distinctive British handwriting on all eight sides. A prolific writer, she gathered these snapshot recollections from years when my parents and then pre-schooler sister lived in post-war France and Germany. God bless her. We think about doing such things so often. Now I’m a real beneficiary because she actually did.

“I decided then that you’d probably grow up to be a tactful, diplomatic person,” she describes of the time when, on her very first airplane flight (from London to Bordeaux, France), my sister, then 4, made polite conversation with the two travelers seated across from her and my mother. My mother describes them as “dressed in the full regalia of those who live in Arab countries.”

Among many vocations, my sister was eventually a staff member for three Congressmen and a U.S. Senator, which afforded numberless opportunities to practice both tact and diplomacy. Our mother had a knack for being prophetic that way.

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Photo: Kathy Gilman

She recalls “Tu et You,” my parents’ nickname for the rustic French farmhouse where they were billeted as a young couple. “Toilet was directly off — almost still within — the kitchen,” she writes. “The septic tank, it turns out, was directly under the toilet,” as she had occasion to discover when said toilet malfunctioned and the horse-drawn “Vidange Rapide” (“quick drain”) cart came to the rescue. The operator, she records, consumed a sandwich during the repair, all while periodically jiggling the leaky hose he was wielding. His verdict: “Too much tissue.” Apparently none was the preferred quantity.

Each weekday, from the time my sister turned 5, two military police would arrive at the house shortly before dawn to escort her to school via military staff car, a ride of an hour each way. I cannot imagine what this meant for my mother’s peace of mind. It explains a lot about why my sister’s probably one of the most unflappable travelers I know.

On some of those schooldays, my mother and a very-pregnant neighbor, also a military spouse, went to the nearby market town to do laundry. My mother handled the French-speaking, at which she was quite adept, and the neighbor provided the transportation. My mother was tasked with planning their route, which she did very carefully, as the neighbor’s Studebaker had no reverse gear.

1011701_514541095267076_944692049_nOn one of those days, Henri the gardener decided to “repair” the coal stove and inadvertently dislodged the stove pipe, which collapsed and blanketed everything in sight, including Henri, in soot. My mother notes that he did not stick around to help clean it up.

On New Year’s Eve at the luxurious Grand Hotel in Bordeaux, the elegant doors to the rooms for “hommes” (men) and “femmes” (women) opened into the same restroom. “And the very fancy chicken entrée still had most of its insides,” my mother notes. As she so often did, she came home afterward and sat on my sister’s bed and shared the evening’s details, including descriptions of the most fashionably dressed women.

Next stop in their tour of duty was Frankfurt, Germany, where most military families had maids, in part because so many postwar Germans needed the work. Ria, the first, asserted her influence with furniture: “Every weekend, your father would rearrange the gigantic German furniture, including piano, and every Monday, Ria would put it all back. ‘Nein, nein — das ist besser’.”

Harriette favored “snail and Crisco sandwiches,” and Olga, who had been a Russian prisoner of war (and suffered who knows what atrocities) hadn’t seen a flush toilet before and thought it a fine device for cleaning vegetables, my mother was horrified to discover one day.

My father, who tended to be the family storyteller, regaled us with stories like these for years and no matter how many times we heard them, they sent tears of mirth rolling down our cheeks.  LAFS6377506

My mother’s dry summaries, rendered with British wit, certainly did too. Yet there’s something that speaks volumes between their terse lines. My father, more often than not, came home to hear about these experiences, while my mother, with a battlefront whose local dialect kept changing, actually lived them.

Humor was obviously a very big part of how she managed that. And while she may have had to dig deep, some days, to find that humor, the effort itself is still a kind of healing balm, even all these years later.

Adapted from Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details.

http://www.amazon.com/Life-First-Sight-Finding-ebook/dp/B00B5MR9B0/ref=tmm_kin_title_0/181-3985550-85


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Why The Munich Girl?

EvaAlong the path of my forthcoming book, The Munich Girl, a novel about the many kinds of legacies that outlast war, there’s one question I’m asked more than any other:

What led me to write a book about Hitler’s mistress (and eventual wife), Eva Braun?

It reminds me of what so many asked after the war, after her death, when the role she had played finally came to light:

“Why her, just an ordinary Munich girl?”

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Wisdom House, Litchfield, CT, Photo: Suzanne Birdsall-Stone

I had a chance to ponder both of these questions further during this summer’s conference of the International Women’s Writing Guild at a welcoming retreat center in Connecticut called Wisdom House. After nearly 40 years of memberships in various organizations, the IWWG remains my stand-out favorite.

IWWG is a wonderful network that fosters the personal and professional empowerment of women through writing. While it has nurtured an impressive record of success and achievement for its members in the publishing world, it has always aimed for both excellence and personal transformation. It especially values “an inner ability to perceive the subtle interconnections between people, events, and emotions”. If you’re a woman and a writer, check out: http://www.iwwg.org.

In a wonderful memoir workshop led by Maureen Murdock, whose book, The Heroine’s Journey (among several of hers) has shed important light on my path, I reflected on that Eva Braun question. I also recognized that my next book is likely to be a memoir about the sometimes uncanny, even mystical process that has led to my writing about her, and about Germany during the war. 51-UcjX4oTL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_

For a workshop activity that was designed to reveal more about me as a “character” of my own story, I wrote: “When I watched the films of Eva Braun, I would be moved into depths I could not understand. I was left feeling like a child who didn’t want to pull herself away from play or a remarkable new discovery.

“I wanted to visit with her over coffee, be in the presence of those expressions I saw shape her face as I watched the films in silence — feel that unmistakable lightness that she communicated in those scenes without sound. And, I wanted to better understand the struggle and despair I heard quite unmistakably in the pages of her diary. I was fascinated that she had found her way toward an audacity that could tease, even scold, someone like that tyrant she loved, even as she also seemed to give up her entire life because of him.

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“Who knows which of her unnamed roles was really the more significant, in her time? The buffer she sometimes provided for others around him? The diffuser of tension she so often was, or the soother of circumstances that others undoubtedly came to rely on during the self-will-run-riot mania of a self-appointed despot?

“She seems such an emblem of what so many women do, have done, throughout the ages. Not able to enact their own potential in a direct and visible way, they must resort to doing so from the invisible sidelines and background.”

In Eva Braun’s case, that invisibility lasted the entire 16 years she spent with Hitler.

EB pix Germany and more 679Ironically, because she was considered so insignificant, she was allowed to film the visual evidence that proved — though he publicly protested to the contrary — that the Führer did, indeed, have a private life.

One he never would have had without her.

A question that still lingers for me is, did she?

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War here:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/

To join the book’s mailing list for news about its release and related events, email: info@phyllisring.com