The Welsh Girl by Peter Ho Davies
Pages: 333 (paperback)
Genre: Historical Fiction
From the Back Cover:
Set in the stunning landscape of North Wales just after D-Day, Peter Ho Davies's profoundly moving first novel traces the intersection of disparate lives in wartime. When a POW camp is established near her village, seventeen-year-old barmaid Esther Evans finds herself strangely drawn to the camp and its forlorn captives. She is exploring the camp boundary when the astonishing occurs: Karsten, a young German corporal, calls out to her from behind the fence. From that moment on, the two foster a secret relationship that will ultimately put them both at risk. Meanwhile, another foreigner, the German-Jewish interrogator Rotherham, travels to Wales to investigate Britain's most notorious Nazi prisoner, Rudolf Hess.
The Welsh Girl offers a very unique story. Set during World War II, this novel introduces us to the Welsh countryside where the Welsh struggle with resentment toward both the Germans and the English. The story is told through the eyes of three very different characters. Esther, a 17 year-old Welsh farm girl and part-time barmaid, is attracted to the English soldiers, who she met working at the bar--before the soldiers were banned. While the naturalistic Welsh still view the English with resentment and distrust, she doesn't view them as the enemy. Karsten is a German POW who feel shame for surrendering instead of fighting till death. And finally, Rothertam, a British Captain who resents the fact that is he is thought of first as a Jew and not as a British officer.
This is a thought-provoking book where you might just lose sight whose side you are on. Central themes include national identity, betrayal, and cultural expectations. The story is beautiful and convincing. All the characters struggle with their identity with drastically different results and consequences. It's really hard to describe this story because it's greatness lies in the character development (of even the smallest character), the fluid storytelling, and emotional connection. It is complex without being confusing. Though set during World War II, it is not depressing. However, it is rather deep and perhaps not the best choice if you are looking for a lighter read.
Has anyone else read this book? What did you think? This is a rather deep novel with many themes and questions that are relevant even today. What is your preference on these types of books? Do you like them deep or lighthearted?