I buy lots of books. Sometimes, unavoidably, I am disappointed by my choices. Other times, more often, I am not. And finally, very rarely, I am absolutely and utterly engrossed by the printed matter under my nose. This was one of those cases.
I was literally glued to the pages until the very end, and that means after the epilogue, when more surprising information was delivered. Such information is mentioned in some of the other reviews so this is not a spoiler: this book is based on a true story. Nobody will probably ever know to what extent the real mixes with fiction, but suffice it to say, it is a gripping book until the very last page in my opinion.
What I loved about it, is the quick-paced minutiae. To some it may seem like a slow trickle of details, emotions, feelings, not much "action" there, but I did not perceive it this way: the author rendered pain, bitterness, fear and love just so extremely well. Not too many crude descriptions, but fear, desperation and brutality rendered so vividly that sometimes I had to swallow twice from the tension. And scorn, irony, a sardonic smile enveloping certain atmospheres.
An unusual subject too, the German side of the story viewed by some simple, plain people who desperately try to rebel to the whole situation in their own way (including some seemingly inflexible hard-hearted uniforms). Many characters populate the scene, although the main story-line is dominated by Otto and Anna Quangel, husband and wife. Otto is certainly one of my favourite characters. Together with his wife Anna, they represent a solid, hard-working couple; in the beginning they did not even seem to be hostile to the National Socialists. But when their only child Ottochen is killed while fighting, their world turns upside-down. And their consciences start to backfire. An insuppressible desire to "do something" pervades their thoughts, starting with Otto, quiet, laborious Otto, later influencing his wife who turns out to be a great help and support for the scheme he has in mind: peppering Berlin with subversive postcards, inviting the population to rebel against the regime.
Otto's dignity, integrity and moral values never falter. He is the guiding hand to Anna, they work in unison and the postcards -and the moral value to them- becomes the center of their lives. They are so solitary and careful nobody would suspect them. But then... walking on thin ice, no matter how carefully, can be dangerous. In those days, it meant certain death. But Otto and Anna Quangel are prepared to face anything.
The author never lived long enough to see his book published (in 1947) as he died shortly after finishing it and it is also probable that details from his own life -he's described to have been quite an unstable person who went into rehab several times- are portrayed in this book befitting certain scenes. In any case, he produced this wonderful book in a very short time and it is sad that he was unable to enjoy the success it generated. I gather the English translation was done recently and that is perhaps why I hadn't heard of this book before. Better late than never, do read this book if you like the genre, it is highly recommendable.