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Winnie and Wolf [Paperback]

A.N. Wilson

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Book Description

Aug. 5 2008
Winnie and Wolf is the story of the extraordinary relationship between Winifred Wagner and Adolf Hitler that took place during the years 1925–40, as seen through the eyes of the secretary at the Wagner house in Bayreuth.

Winifred, an English girl, brought up in an orphanage in East Grinstead, married at the age of eighteen to the son of Germany’s most controversial genius, is a passionate Germanophile, a Wagnerian dreamer, a Teutonic patriot.

In the debacle of the post-Versailles world, the Wagner family hope for the coming, not of a warrior, a fearless Siegfried, but of a Parsifal, a mystic idealist, a redeemer-figure. In 1925, they meet their Parsifal – a wild-eyed Viennese opera-fanatic in a trilby hat, a mac and a badly fitting suit. Hitler has already made a name for himself in some sections of German society through rabble-rousing and street corner speeches. It is Winifred, though, who believes she can really see his poetry. Almost at once they drop formalities and call one another ‘Du’ rather than ‘Sie’. She is Winnie and he is Wolf.

Like Winnie, Hitler was an outsider. Like her, he was haunted by the impossibility of reconciling the pursuit of love and the pursuit of power; the ultimate inevitability, if you pursued power, of destruction. Both had known the humiliations of poverty. Both felt angry and excluded by society. Both found each other in an unusual kinship that expressed itself through a love of opera.

In A.N. Wilson’s most bold and ambitious novel yet, the world of the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany is brilliantly recreated, and forms the backdrop to this incredible bond, which ultimately reveals the remarkable capacity of human beings to deceive themselves.


From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details


Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Veteran British biographer and novelist Wilson's plodding latest concerns the private life of Adolf Hitler (Wolf) and his friendship and affair with Winnie, the daughter-in-law of Richard Wagner. The novel opens in 1925 and is composed by an unnamed secretary to Winnie's husband. Though weighted down by detailed discussions of philosophy and the opera that so inspired Hitler, the narrative at times hums with life. Wilson offers a new way of viewing the charismatic (though sweating and flatulent) leader, who appears to the Wagner family as the savior who will raise up a starving and humiliated interwar Germany and who made you feel that the struggle would not have been worth it unless it had gone too far. Unfortunately, Wilson seems so intent on demonstrating the breadth of his knowledge and research that narrative technique feels like an afterthought. This dense and dry tale is unlikely to appeal to readers who aren't already at least armchair scholars of the era. (Nov.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"A bold, ambitious piece of fiction"
—Terry Eagleton, Guardian

"A subtle and captivating fiction"
The Times

"An extraordinary work whose achievements are almost Wagnerian in scale"
Daily Mail

"This novel should carry a warning: its appeal will be greatest for fans either of Wagner and European history, or of politics and philosophy"
Sunday Times


From the Hardcover edition.

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Amazon.com: 4.0 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Winnie and Wolf July 8 2008
By Peking Duck - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is a gorgeously written book that I could not put down. It is absolutely not for everyone. But if you are interested in the life and music of Richard Wagner and/or the strange story of how the Nazis co-opted his works and perverted their meaning, or if you are interested in Germany's bizarre path from tentative democracy following the Great War to becoming the evil empire under Hitler, and why the German people surrendered their critical facilities and allowed Hitlerism to bring them, and much of the world, to the brink of destruction - if you are interested in these things, you will savor every page of Winnie and Wolf.

The premise, that Winifred carried on an affair with Hitler and bore his child, is absurd, but it doesn't matter. The author's observations about life in Bayreuth after it was usurped by Hitler is accurate to the finest detail. I strongly recommend reading it after you've finished Brigitte Hamann's suberb Winifred Wagner: A Life at the Heart of Hitler's Bayreuth. You will see how faithful the novel is to history, and you will have more context to understand the cast of characters such as Hans Tietjen, Houston Stewart Chamberlain, Friedelind Wagner, etc.

Mesmerizing, hypnotic, touching and ripe with keen insights into German history and philosophy and music, not to mention human nature.... Well, what more can we ask for? As I headed into the last 50 pages or so I started to read it more slowly, sometimes reading only one or two pages a night before bedtime, because I didn't want it to end. A book to cherish.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, But Why the Need for a Hitler Love Child? Dec 7 2008
By L. Young - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Wilson's 'Winnie and Wolf' exhibits a prodigous knowledge of German history from the end of WW1 until the end of WW2, Wagner's music, German philosophy, literature and art and the history of the Bayreuth Festival. Why I asked myself, did he write this as a novel using the wild premise that Winifred Wagner and Adolf Hitler had an affair that produced a child?

Wilson hangs his novel on a framework of having the novel writen as a memoir of 'N', Siegfried and then Winifred's personal assistant which N later in life will give to his adopted daughter the biological child of Winnie and Hitler. By using this device we become privy to private conversations between Winnie and Hitler, Winnie and Tietjen, Winnie and Toscanni. But more importantly it makes vivid the everyday life of Germans in Weimar Germany who then witness and then for the most part deliriously support the rise of their ultimate Leader, Hitler and Nazism. N finds himself torn between his love of Winnie and of Wagner, and his ambivalent feelings towards the charismatic Uncle Wolf who reguarly visits Bayreuth and who reads fairy tales to the Wagner children and adores dogs. It is N's theory that the Uncle Wolf of Bayreuth and the Hitler of Munich and Berlin are two conflicting beings inhabiting one body, an interesting psychological premise.

The device of the narrator works superbly in allowing the reader to view the rise of Hitler through the eyes of everyday Germans. However, the premise of Winnie's and Hitler's 'love' child seems silly and unnecessary. Did the author think such an outrageous premise would spark the book buying public to purchase more books? If so he is wrong. This is definitely not a book for the general reader, but for those who are already well acquainted with the music of Wagner, the history of the Bayreuth Festival and the rise and fall of Adolph Hitler.
3.0 out of 5 stars Odd Nov. 1 2009
By Megan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
I don't usually read historical fiction and this book reminded me why. The author had a unique voice and a way of capturing the reader's attention but overall the story was... odd. Humanizing Hitler is certainly a daring exploit but I still found myself disliking him and most every character in the novel. I don't know that much about Opera or music and felt a lot of things went over my head. This isn't something I'd ever pick up again, but not necessarily something I regret reading.
9 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars soft and sympathetic Oct. 7 2007
By mountblanc - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A really nice and sympathetic if not compassionate book about Mrs. Wagner and Mr. Hitler. The author has managed to create a believable and entertaining picture of the relationship of the two which has so far attracted much, but superficial treatment in most books about Hitler. A pleasure to read, could have been chosen for the annual Booker or prize..., but perhaps the theme did not allow...
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Premise Nov. 29 2008
By Cary B. Barad - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
A very intriguing premise with a promising opening. You will be rewarded if you are a serious music lover and one who might perhaps enjoy reading about Richard Wagner and his offspring. For the rest of us, who are just looking for some good historical fiction covering twentienth century European history and the rise of Nazi Germany, the experience turns out to have a somewaht sluggish feel--one filled with arcane details, a multitude of characters and some digressive themes.

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