People choose their life paths for many reasons and their decisions are sometimes hard to figure. During wartime, many ordinary people become trapped on these paths, in situations that are bigger than themselves. Perhaps that is a good way to describe Eva Braun’s relationship with Adolf Hitler, a man who set his own path and destroyed nearly six million Jews and others who did not fit his Aryan profile. Phyllis Edgerly Ring’s The Munich Girl is the story of Eva Braun and her friendship with Peggy, a German girl she meets on a train outside Austria. In this historical fiction, Ring suggests how one might understand and even sympathize with Eva, who met Hitler when she was seventeen and waited sixteen years for him to publicly acknowledge their relationship. Facing wartime defeat, Hitler finally married her and, less than two days later, they committed suicide.
The Munich Girl begins in a New Hampshire college town, as Peggy’s daughter, Anna is hired by Hannes Ritter, the new editor of a military history magazine owned by Anna’s husband, Lowell. Anna’s first assignment is to write an article about Eva. As Hannes describes his native Germany, Anna is instantly drawn to him for reasons she does not fully understand. Long silenced by her controlling husband, it’s the first time Anna’s opinions matter.
Anna is already facing change as she grieves her mother’s recent death. As she sorts through Peggy’s belongings, Anna discovers a number of items that suggest her mother’s life in Germany was far different from the one Anna knew. At the center of this curiosity is a portrait of Eva, a post-war prize acquired by her father that has been hanging on their wall for as long as Anna can remember.
In the midst of her research, a sudden turn forces Anna to face her life in a new way. Her discoveries about Peggy and Eva set her on a journey towards renewed strength and self-worth and show her the true meaning of family, love and going home.
Ring successfully tackles a tricky subject by suggesting a sympathetic understanding of Eva, who is often portrayed in history books as selfish and uncaring. By drawing parallels between the three women, their shared feelings of loneliness and despair, the author offers a possible explanation for Eva’s choice to love one of the most despised men in history. As Peggy tells her good friend Eva, “I may never understand your being with him. But I can well understand why someone would want you near.”
In addition to these parallels, Ring shows how German citizens were forced to endure Hitler’s reign. Many bravely joined the Resistance and others risked their lives by protecting the resisters. Her story shows the human element that exists on all sides during wartime and the hardships all people must endure.
The Munich Girl is an excellent story with unique ideas, layers and themes. And while Anna’s journey reaches a satisfying finish, Ring leaves the reader with much to consider.
Click here to read “Some historical background and a preview of The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring”
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