Mar 5, 2010

Nostalgic Friday: Summer of My German Soldier

Welcome back to Nostalgic Friday! Since I love all things historical (culturally, physically, and personally) I do a post on Fridays honoring some awesome book that is a bit older. Many of them are books I enjoyed in my teens and others are books that I discovered as an adult that I think are relevant to YA readers.

This week I'm featuring Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene. It was originally released in 1973, but I assure you I read it long after that.

Patty Bergen is an average girl in World War II Arkansas. Her father is a respectable local department store merchant and her mother is a home-maker and local saleswoman. Patty feels of very little importance to her family. It seems that no matter what she does, she can't make her parents happy. So during her summer vacation Patty is determined to just enjoy herself and spend as much time as possible doing fun things.

Her plans change when German Prisoners of War arrive in her little town of Jenkinsville, Arkansas. By chance, she meets Anton in her father's store and they hit it off. While he is obviously older than her and she is still a child, they form a very special bond. When he escapes, and plans to make his way back to Germany, Patty agrees to hide him in her family's garage until he can make a safe departure. During this hiding phase is where the meat of the story lies. Anton helps Patty understand herself and her place in life better and she comforts him as he wrestles with what is going on in his country during the war.

This book was part of my "must read everything WWII/Holocaust related" phase. I really felt like I related to Patty's predicament of being stuck between the world her parents functioned in and the world she was trying to create for herself. Patty was kind of like an odd duck to her parents and they never really made an attempt to understand her. Patty turns to the one person who is willing to listen to her and helps her through.

Anton is an all-around decent guy. He talks about his life before the war, what happened to his parents, and the truth about what's really going on in Germany. He feels like an older brother for Patty and wants to take care of her. He really wishes that he could either take her with him or stay with her, but he knows there is no way.

The main characters made and unlikely pairing (as Patty is a 12 year-old Jewish girl and Anton is a 22 year-old German POW) for a story, but it works quite well. The parents are quite representative of their time period, with an over-bearing father and a mother concerned with what society is concerned with at the moment. The setting is a little wonky because who would expect to find German POW's in Arkansas, but it works for the purpose of the story. I really enjoyed this coming-of-age tale and its sequel Morning is a Long Time Coming. Check them out!


Lawral the Librarian said...

I LOVED this book (and Morning is a Long Time Coming) when I was a kid. There is probably still a tattered copy wedged between the bedframe and the wall in my old room.

April (BooksandWine) said...

I, too, loved this book when I was younger. I do think it holds a lot of memories for many people. I don't know what ever happened to my copy though. :-(