Thursday, August 5, 2010

Traitor by Gudrun Pausewang

Pub date - October 2010.

An enemy is hiding in Anna's barn - a Russian prisoner of war on the run from the Nazis.

Only Anna knows he
's there. If she turns him in, he'll be shot.

But if she hides him, she'll be a traitor to Germany. And for that, she could be shot herself . . .
(book back blurb)

This isn't my first time reading a translated book. I've read both good and bad and usually, regardless of what it is, something's missing. It's the natural act of translating. Only the original language can hold the beauty the story was meant to portray. The thing is, with Traitor, hardly anything's lost. Yeah, there's some off punctuation, no doubt carried over from the original German. But the beauty? The emotion? The gut-wrenching feeling that kept me turning the pages? Oh yeah. All there. Didn't miss a beat. Reading this book makes me wish I knew German so I can read it in its original language. It can only be better in German.

Initially I got the feeling from reading that Anna was this little girl. And I guess in her head she was. Very naive, very close-minded about everything that was going on. She was literally smack dab in the middle of a war and all she cared about was socializing and where the greatest places to hang out were.

Maxim changed everything and throughout the course of the story, you see Anna harden. When the fear sets in, the fear that she could be shot for hiding this Russian POW, the fear that her brother really was capable of turning her in for the good of the Fatherland, her skin thickens. She no longer acts or talks like a little girl. Her mannerisms, her actions, are all adult. A guilty adult trying to hide as much as possible. At first her actions to help his man were purely innocent. She didn't know he was Russian. She thought he was mentally challenged and felt bad for him. But the she finds out and despite everything she was taught about Russians in the Hitlerjugen, their brutish, animalistic nature, she doesn't see that in Maxim. She sees a man like everyone else and she can't let him die.

Felix literally had me crying. He was younger than Anna by a couple of years (14, maybe) and he was wholly indoctrinated into the Third Reich to the point that he'd turn over his own family because nothing came before the good of Germany. Not even his life. By the end I wanted to scream for his fate, and the fate of the rest of his family because of him. The Reich got them when they were young and impressionable. They were more easily swayed. And Felix got sucked right into it.

Every loss portrayed in Traitor, every flinch of fear, every pang of sorrow, or hunger, every rumble of a bomb, you could hear and feel through Gudrun's writing. It's a different view of yet another World War II novel. The ending isn't happy. In fact it's a blackout that has you wondering what happened next but at the same time you know exactly what happened. Everything is true. Everything is true. And it had me wanting to screaming, "Noooooooooooooo!" It says something when you spend a few seconds flipping the last page back and forth, willing some more words to appear to give a more well-rounded ending to the story but there were none. Really, I liked where it ended for all the frustration it caused. I think it's perfect. Sad and heart-crushing and gut-churning but it's where the story needed to end. I can't picture it ending anywhere else.

If you read Traitor, and you should, it'll suck you right in. You'll feel everything Anna feels. You'll be able to hear everything, taste everything, shudder with her every shudder, flush with her every stroke of panic when she thinks she's been found out. You won't want it to end and you'll scream when it does because you won't be ready for it. It's just done, just like Anna. And then you'll want to go back to the beginning and start again just to feel everything she did all over again.


Mrs. DeRaps said...

Perfect for a course I'm teaching this coming school year. I'm using Markus Zusak's The Book Thief as the central text and am looking for companion novels. I just ordered this after reading your review. Thanks!

Helen's Book Blog said...

I love to hear that this book is good for high school students. Is it?

Donna said...

Of course this book is excellent for high school students! It's a harsh reality that I think they all should read about.

Sam and Jodie said...

This sounds like a really unique sort of book and a great read. Thanks for reviewing this book

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