The Luck of the Weissensteiners is an epic historical fiction based Eastern Europe during World War II. This story – the tale of two families – will captivate readers immediately and hold them mesmerized until the final page. These two families, one Jewish and one Catholic, find their fates entwined as they fight for survival among the fascist then communist invasion of Slovakia. It is a gripping tale and incredibly thrilling. Among all World War II historical fiction novels I would certainly place this within the must-read books.
Consider for a moment the beginning sentences of the book synopsis: “In the sleepy town of Bratislava in 1933 a romantic girl falls for a bookseller from Berlin. Greta Weissensteiner, daughter of a Jewish weaver, slowly settles in with the Winkelmeier clan just as the developments in Germany start to make waves in Europe. The political climate in the multifaceted cultural jigsaw puzzle of disintegrating Czechoslovakia becomes more complex and affects relations between the couple and the families. The story follows their lot through the war with its predictable and also its unexpected turns and events and the equally hard times after.”
I was enraptured with Greta and Wilhelm from the very beginning. I fell in love with their characters, the setting, the story and the history. The history of the time is heavy in this novel with very little fictional embellishment but that only made it more delightful of a read for me. I appreciate the care that Fischer took to verify the accuracy of history and the details of the time. The embellishment came from the personal stories of the characters themselves; the details of the countries, the political culture and the moral attitudes were all grounded in proven fact and historical accounts of Eastern Europe during World War II.
Many historical fiction novels set in Eastern Europe during World War II fall prey to the easy plot of beginning during the height of the anti-semitic attitudes and behaviors. Very few books that I have read have dared to approach the introduction and growth of this culture. Fischer did not fall prey to that trap in The Luck of the Weissensteiners. Fischer approached the swelling anti-semitic movement from the early stages and allowed it to foster and grow throughout the story. As a result the reader is able to feel a continually growing feeling of fear and trepidation as the story develops.
It is challenging to discuss too much of the plot without giving away critical details to the story. All I can truly say without feeling as though I’m providing too many spoilers is that Greta, a young Jewish girl and Wilhelm, a young German man, meet at a local bookshop, marry and start a family. They have a wonderful marriage built on mutual love, admiration and respect; that is, until the anti-semitic movement begins to grow and consume the mentality of Eastern Europe. What follows is a heartbreaking story of love, fear, prejudice and betrayal. I was enamored with this story and only regret that I read it so quickly. This is a book that deserves to be read slowly and pleasurably. I encourage any reader who decides to follow my recommendation and read The Luck of the Weissensteiners to read it slowly and over at least a week to really focus on the story, connect with the characters and savor every moment.
Review by Ashley LaMar
A Top Recommendation by Closed the Cover