THE PAST IS MYSELF by CHRISTABEL BIELENBERG.
SOURCE: A readers group read.
Christabel Bielenberg, a niece of Lord Northcliffe, married a German lawyer in 1934. She lived through the war in Germany, as a German citizen, under the horrors of Nazi rule and Allied bombings.
The Past Is Myself is her story of that experience, an unforgettable portrait of an evil time.
...... Outer back cover.
FIRST SENTENCE (Prologue: Autumn 1939): 'I am speaking to you from No. 10 Downing Street.....
MEMORABLE MOMENT (Page 130): She had to live the life of a 'submarine', a pitiful figure hounded from pillar to post emerging here, emerging there, fed and cared for only by those who were brave to look after her.
MY THOUGHTS: A memoir written by a Englishwoman married to a German citizen living in the Germany of World War II?
Being written by what to all intents and purposes was a 'foreign born' citizen I was hoping that The Past Is Myself would provide a somewhat different perspective from the multitude of books written by soldiers (both English and German), prisoners of war and the survivors of the Holocaust.
And in some ways it did. But not nearly a personal enough account - I really wanted to know more about the authors experiences and especially her feelings - I felt much of it had been well documented before.
Essentially what felt like a chronicle of events, of what happened, where and when, and to whom. Whilst the descriptions of everything from the treatment of the Jewish population, the economy, and the 'Suicide Season' were dealt with admirably the book as a whole could have benefited, as I explained before, from a more personal touch.
Ultimately a book that I found a chore to read. Frustrated by the words/sentences written in German for which no translation was given, footnotes being the exception rather than the rule, the narrative was constantly disrupted by my having to ask what such and such a word meant. Then there was the fact that the author regularly used phrases that left me totally puzzled - for those of you who are wondering, a 'hairy Mary' is apparently used to describe an exceptionally hairy woman though whether or not this is what Ms Bielenberg meant by it is any ones guess.
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