Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tyger, Tyger, Burning Bright by Justine Saracen

Pub date: March 13, 2012.

Author website.

Twelve years of terror end with a world in flames. Behind filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl’s stirring footage of a million joyous patriots, the horror of Nazi Germany slowly unfolds. It engulfs Katja Sommer, a “good German” with dangerous desires; Frederica Brandt, a traitor to her homeland; Rudi Lamm, a homosexual camp survivor and forced soldier for Hitler; and Peter Arnhelm, a half-Jewish smuggler on the run. Under the scrutiny of the familiar monsters of the Third Reich, their enablers, and their hangers-on, these four struggle for life and for each other. Love does not conquer all, but it’s far better than going to hell alone. (

First off, let me say that TYGER, TYGER, BURNING BRIGHT is NOT Nazi propaganda (I'm looking at YOU, Photobucket!). It's a book about German citizens, four in particular who are gay, fighting the regime from the inside. Two end up in camps with one signing up for the SS in order to get out, one goes into hiding in plain sight and the fourth bides her time working for the Ministry of Propaganda in order to smuggle confidential information out of the country to the Allies.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: I'm a total sucker for World War II era books. I love them. In order for me not to love it it's need to tank pretty badly. And aside from some pretty mechanical writing, TYGER, TYGER was a pretty good story. What I especially liked reading was the war from a perspective other than the Americans or British. Seeing it from behind enemy lines, from traitorous people working against the fascist regime, it gives that whole era yet another dimension that one wouldn't get from just reading it through a single set of eyes.

The story, for the most part, is through Katja's eyes, alternating to Frederica, Rudi and Peter for short amounts of time but you end up feeling for them all. Irrespective of the style of writing, when the camps come into play and two of the characters end up with first hand accounts, nothing is glossed over. To see what the Germans did to their own people is horrifying and TYGER, TYGER didn't cut corners with that. In fact that's when I felt the book was being the most detailed and gritty: when it was describing the horror around the characters. Their lives were a little dry and at times emotionless but when the outside came in, it came with a force that knocked everything else away. It was just so powerful that I was literally taken aback when reading certain parts of the story.

I also liked how this could have really happened. Real people were used, like Goebbels and Riefenstahl and the things that happened in their lives happened in this book. It rooted the more dramatic aspects, like the level to which Frederica gets, into greater reality. While it probably didn't happen, it felt like it could have reading the story.

Because of the mechanical writing it did feel like it was missing something. I think at times it could have been a passion. Yes the events that were recounted hit deeply and I could feel what the characters were going through but at times it felt more like a statement than a story. Good, yes, but a bit too technical. But really that would probably be my only complaint about TYGER, TYGER. Everything else hits home quite well.

If you're a World War II reader like I am, you'll want to add TYGER, TYGER, BURNING BRIGHT to your list of reading material. For it's single fault, it provides a great story through relatively unfamiliar eyes and I think it's because of that that makes the story feel somehow fresher than a lot of other WWII fiction out there. At least to this American.

Ban Factor: High - I think the homosexuality and lesbianism would set the banners in a tizzy as it is.
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