Christoph Fischer : The Luck of the Weissensteiners
This book, a historical romance came as a pleasant surprise.
The plot line is simple, can Jews stay out of the hands of Nazi Germany when anti Semitism is at a high? The subplot was amazing. The author plays off prejudice against a continent in a constant state of change with their people a diaspora group of settlers. In such a Europe, where do you turn to? The fact that you were born Jewish but are not a practicing Jew must count for something, must it not? Surely it will. But in a world where your neighbor on the one side is German and the other is for now, Romanian, who can you trust?
Cleverly woven into the plot and the main subplot is yet another prejudice, this one based on sexual preference and how do you trust your neighbors, not with only your familial heritage but with a sexual preference that in the day saw practitioners as much persecuted as the Jews!
I loved that toward the end of the book the salvation as perceived by the persecutors at times against the protagonists and at others, it is the persecutors that turns into the role of savior. Seldom, it seems, are things the way they seem.
The author then brilliantly introduces another prejudice although this one is used to the advantage of the family and friends fleeing so it may go unnoticed. The author brings in mental illness in one of his protagonists and the prejudice that might bring. This is never over played so that it takes away from the main plot line; instead it serves to highlight the main plot line.
The only problem I have with the book is that the author did not show any real emotional growth in his main positive role players while characters such as Wilhelm digress soon and to such a degree that I found him extremely distasteful. This is true for many other negative protagonists within this book.
The amount of research this author had to do to bring this book to publication is mind blowing, the lines of diaspora communities in a time that was notorious for corrupt officials and inaccurate record keeping is amazing.
I have one more thing to mention about the very distasteful Wilhelm, in the beginning of the book we meet him as a young romantic, well educated and well read young man. The epitaph of the scholar armed to rationally stand against irrational prejudice. He soon gets swayed by really ridiculous propaganda… which got me thinking. If real evil flourish when good men stand by and do nothing, does evil sprout from intellectuals that stand for no principles?
The irony of the title was not lost on me; it is one of those titles that will bring something different to each reader as they read along. For me the irony was seated in the principle that luck when once is persecuted due to a birthright and nothing more, may not be luck at all.