Sunday, November 27, 2011

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

While the battles of World War II are taking place overseas, the war is about to come to the small town of Jenkinsville, Arkansas. German POWs are being transferred to a nearby facility and the entire town seems to be a bit on edge. Watching the tension is twelve-year-old Patty Bergen. Patty is struggling with a lot of things: she's terrified of her father's abusive temper, her mother is always insulting her, and she's one of the only Jewish people in her small town. When she meets Anton, one of the German soldiers, she's amazed by his intelligence and his kindness. Then Anton escapes from the prison facility, and Patty's world is about to change forever.

(Some spoilers below)

I first heard of this story when I fell in love with the TV Movies - Daring to Love forum thread at Television Without Pity. So many people seemed to have such strong memories of both the book and the TV movie. This book wasn't really what I thought it was going to be - I pictured it being more of a romance, but due to the striking age difference between Anton and Patty (including her being only twelve at the time), I would have a hard time even thinking of it being based on romantic love. I was also surprised by the examination of race and the casual, institutionalized racism, although if I had really thought about the setting and the time period I shouldn't have been surprised (but probably still shocked at its extent). The edition that I read, the Open Road Media eBook edition, includes an "Author's Affidavit" at the front of the book where Bette Greene confesses that Patty Bergen is based on her and the book is based on her life. Reading the book took on a bit of a different light after that, making it even more difficult to read about "Patty's" mother and father and how they treated her. 

Summer of My German Soldier, the TV movie starring Kristy McNichol, aired in 1978. Someone has put the movie in its entirety up on Youtube, but I have no idea how long it will last until someone pulls it down.

Also check out Jezebel's look at Summer of My German Soldier.

I read a review copy of the eBook from NetGalley courtesy of Open Road Media.

Read it with:
Morning is a Long Time Coming by Bette Greene
The Drowning of Stephen Jones by Bette Greene
Starring Sally J. Friedman as Herself by Judy Blume

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