Ron Hansen--Hitler's Niece Book:Hitler's Niece


Ron Hansen--Hitler's Niece

Book:Hitler's Niece
Author: Ron Hansen
Recommendation: Not for everyone, in fact, not for very many
Let's start with the good points: as usual with Hansen the book is well-written, but full of idiosyncratic blips that may throw some readers off. You know how in every creative writing assignment you were ever given the teacher told you to "show" don't "tell." You were always advised to chop out lumps of sheer indigestible expository. Well, this book shows that the author knows how to break those rules without serious consequences. There are large lumps of sheer expository writing every time an historical figure walks on the stage. And there are lumps of blatant foreshadowing. Hansen knows you know what happened in the big picture, so there's no harm in letting you know as the story goes along.

Some of the prose is exquisitely beautiful, as in Mariette in Ecstasy. One wanted to be in some of the countryside described, and to see some of the apartments and their furnishings.

Finally, Hansen has a strong grasp of the historical material and really helps the reader to understand some of the rather confusing events in Hitler's rise to power--the Beer Hall Putsch, the Horst Kessel martyrdom, and so on. Further, so far as I could tell with my limited exposure, he painted a very true picture of between-the-wars Germany and particularly Berlin Decadence.

Therein lies the chief reason I cannot recommend this book without extremely strong reservations. One cannot expect a book about Hitler to be pleasant. And to be honest, I didn't know quite what to expect when I started reading. For the first two thirds of the book, the action of the main story is largely repellent, but not quite enough for me to warn readers away. The last third of the book sends it skyrocketing way over the top with some of the most nauseating depictions and perhaps worse, implications, of perverse sexuality. I understood the need to help the reader see why events transpire the way they do. I even can buy that this may be further propaganda in the anti-Hitler camp (I find it hard to believe that there can be a pro-Hitler camp). But something in this last 100 pages of the book really made me question what Hansen was up to and whether it was necessary. I may revisit and revise this opinion. But presently, I cannot recommend this book to anyone without grave reservations.

One of the criteria I apply to anything I read is a question: Am I a better person (closer to God) for having read this. For the most part, I am at least not further from God. (We must remember the Red Queen's advice--"we must run just as fast as we can to stay in the same place.") Some few books, profit me immensely, opening the doors to God's grace and love. And some few books send a cloudbank skittering into the path of divine light. I'm afraid that's how I feel about this. Perhaps there was a point about grace, faith, the group-mind and many other things. But I fail to see it at this point. Over the next few days, I shall reflect upon it. However, I do not expect that my view of it will change.

Plot synopsis: The story follows Hitler's rise to power and his progressive infatuation with his niece Geli. For at least part of the time Geli is strongly attracted to Hitler and to his charismatic personality. Eventually, she comes face to face with yet another repellent aspect of Hitler's character and seems to be one the way back to grace. To say more would ruin the book for those hardy souls that have not already been dissuaded by other comments.

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This page contains a single entry by Steven Riddle published on January 18, 2003 5:19 PM.

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