October 06, 2011

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

I had heard many good things about this book. While it was an interesting idea for a book, I found that I just couldn't connect with any of the characters or even the storyline for that matter.

Patty is a twelve year old girl who lives with her parents and sister and is cared for by a nice woman named Ruth. A little bit on the wild side, Patty is definitely not her parent's favored child. In fact, it seems like they'd like her to just disappear. She tries to be helpful and kind and make them like her, but she always seems to fail.

When a POW camp is established right outside her town, she gets a chance to meet some of the prisoners when they come to her father's store for hats. One in particular is kind to her and speaks to her as if she matters. His name is Anton and he is more of a scholar than soldier. Patty finds a chance to becomes friends with him when he escapes from the camp and takes to hiding in her garage at home. She brings him food and shares stories with him. Gradually she comes to appreciate him even despite their differences because he is kind to her and actually seems to care about her. However, they both know it can't last and that he needs to move on before he's caught. Its a danger to both him and Patty to be staying there.

The characters in this, with the exception of Ruth, were just terrible. Patty, to me, was a brat and while I still thought her parent's were louses, I couldn't even like her. Her parents, as said before, were terrible people with no redeeming qualities. Anton was only in the book for a little bit and never really gets fleshed out as a character. The only one I liked was Ruth. She was kind with a few flaws and just seemed to be a real person. The rest were just awful with no sense of good in them. It just wasn't very realistic. Another thing I found a bit hard to understand about the characters was the affection Anton felt for Patty even before she helped him. As a twenty something year old man it just seemed odd that he would find this connection with a twelve year old Jewish girl with no other reason than that she sold him some items at the store and was polite to him.

The writing was easy to read since it was a juvenile book. Since its an older book there are racial slurs in it and that could have the potential to offend some people. Most of the book is dialogue so there is not a great amount of description on the setting of the book and the characters were only minimally described. I did like the dialogue in this book; Greene does a wonderful job of expressing the characters feelings about the war and about their family life through their words.

I just couldn't bring myself to like this book. I wanted to but there was nothing to draw me into the story and care about the characters. Its probably a good book to introduce war themes to children but otherwise I'm not sure what its uses are. It doesn't help my opinion that the book seemed unfinished at the end as well. I kept waiting for some explanations on why people felt the way they did about Patty and what would happen to her after she left the school. It felt incomplete.

Fascinating idea for a plot but only carried out fairly well instead of the excellent book it could have been. It wasn't all terrible, as I said before I liked some of the conversations that took place in the book. It just wasn't what I expected the novel to be when I had heard about it from others.

Summer of My German Soldier
Copyright 1973
230 pages

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