Publication Date: November 29, 2012
In the sleepy town of Bratislava in 1933 a romantic girl falls for a bookseller from Berlin. Greta Weissensteiner, daughter of a Jewish weaver, slowly settles into life with the Winkelmeier clan. The political climate and slow disintegration of the multi-cultural society in Czechoslovakia becomes more complex and affects relations between the couple and their families.
The story follows their lot through the war with its torment, destruction and its unpredictability – and the equally hard times after.
From the moment that Greta Weissensteiner enters the bookstore where Wilhelm Winkelmeier works, and entrances him with her good looks and serious ways, I was hooked. But this is no ordinary romance; in tact it is not a romance at all, but a powerful, often sad, Holocaust story. What makes The Luck of the Weissensteiners so extraordinary is the chance Christoph Fischer gives his readers to consider the many different people who were never in concentration camps, never in the military, yet who nonetheless had their own indelible Holocaust experiences. Set in the fascinating area of Bratislava, this is a wide-ranging, historically accurate exploration of the connections between social location, personal integrity and, as the title says, luck. I cared about every one of this novel’s characters and continued to think about them long after I’d finished reading.
— Andrea Steiner, University of California Santa Cruz
The Luck of the Weissensteiners is an epic saga set in wartime Eastern Europe. It follows the lives of two families – one Jewish, one Catholic – and their entwined survival amidst the backdrop of the second world war; first the fascist then the communist invasion and occupation of Slovakia, and the horror of the consequences of war. The reader is transported to a world of deception, fear, distrust and betrayal, alongside enduring love and family drama. Weissensteiners is a magnificent tale of human survival.
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This review is from: The Luck of the Weissensteiners (The Three Nations Trilogy) (Kindle Edition)
This is the third book in “The Three Nations Trilogy” that I have read. I actually read the books in reverse order of publication, reading The Black Eagle Inn (The Three Nations Trilogy) (October 10, 2013), then Sebastian (The Three Nations Trilogy) (April 30, 2013) and now The Luck of the Weissensteiners (November 29, 2012). It has been over 1000 pages of great reading… Where were we? Oh, my review.
This story follows two families through WW2. Yet rest assured it is a human story, deeply so, and not just another historical accounting of human suffering, on the one hand, and barbaric atrocity on the other. Author Christoph Fischer has given us a new lens from which to view WW2, namely, an incredible set of circumstances as a precipitating event. For me, it was the hook necessary to delve into this book with vigor and enthusiasm, since the amount of detail evident in the book was meticulously researched and carefully presented.
The pace of the story allows the reader not only to digest details related to the daily lives of the characters, but to fully acquaint yourself with each character, and yes, to befriend the one, observe the other, and enter into the story, with a stake in the outcome. In other words, this is a fully engrossing, engaging book, which absorbs you, transporting you to another level of reality, which great writers like Author Christoph Fischer are skillful at accomplishing. Fischer shares with the reader the cares and concerns of life for people who lived not only in the city but also in the country. The daily lives of the Weissensteiners and Winkelmeiers give testimony to his attention to minute detail.
The fear, and stress, and tension the Jews felt as Hitler’s armies rolled and marched ever closer to Bratislava is superbly captured by Fischer’s narrative abilities. Wilma’s fear after being attacked on the bridge is empathetically your own fear, palpable. Hypothetically I ask: How would you have felt, had you been in her shoes? My answer: Exactly like Wilma. That is my contention…
The fear of being discovered as Jewish? (Who me? I’m not Jewish!)
Being Jewish was not something you could put on and take off at will, like a coat or a hat. We are, who we are. The only option legitimately advisable was evasion, rather than the farce of self-denial. And thus the daily fear, omnipresent, cloaking everything that one said or did… Unimaginable without Fischer’s artistry in taking us there to experience it for ourselves in this book… We know what the almost certain and unavoidable penalty for being discovered was, namely, deportation to a concentration camp…
How powerful is propaganda?
This book will give you new insights into that question, as many people say that modern day marketing and promotion methods have their roots in the propaganda machine employed by Germany. When we look at our most recent purchases, including many items that we really do not or did not need, we have a clue as to the almost unlimited possibility of propaganda to persuade people to act in ways that are inconsistent with simple logic.
Is this an easy book to read?
No, by no stretch of the imagination. And that is well as it should be. This book deals with the human condition, showing us what excesses we are capable of committing against our fellow human beings. Who can feel comfortable while reading about our own collective capability for horror? Surely, no one.
Yet I recomend this book highly to be read, by all human beings, all over the planet, because we must ensure that what we are reading about never happens again. Yes, we must face our human weaknesses, and hopefully, finish the reading of this book, not with the words of Christoph Fischer, but the words of another great author, Edgar Allen Poe: NEVERMORE!
For me, this is a must read, and I repeat for emphasis: NEVERMORE!
Reviewed by Thomas Jerome Baker
Author of Story Tellers: In Pursuit of Happiness