Sebastian, the second book in Christoph Fischer’s Three Nations Trilogy will steal the heart of readers almost immediately. Young Sebastian, a misunderstood and bookish teenager, loses the lower part of his leg after an infection sets in and takes over. With the support and the love of a kind-hearted nurse, Liesl, and a supportive grandfather, Oscar, Sebastian works to overcome his new handicap and manage the family business after his father is drafted to fight in World War I. He eventually grows into his responsibilities but struggles with doubt and uncertainty as he tries to understand himself and, hopefully, find love.
Fischer’s first novel in the Three Nations Trilogy, “The Luck of the Weissensteiner’s” is a tragic love story between a Jewish woman and a German man whose love and marriage crumbles during the onset of World War I. In “Sebastian” Fischer goes back in time and over to Vienna, Austria to describe the life of a multi-generational Jewish family during the Golden Era of Vienna. The Schrieber family are a lovable group of characters and realistically flawed. Sebastian’s father and grandfather worked incessantly to build a prosperous life for their family and have faced struggles as new competing businesses have moved in, the grandparents begin to experience failing health and then Sebastian loses his leg which adds additional expenses onto an already strained family budget. Sebastian is a wonderfully written character. Initially he keeps his spirits up and is determined to overcome the challenges of losing his leg but additional surgery, time off from school and his father being drafted into World War I all take a toll on the fragile young man. As the struggles mount and the family experiences tragedy after tragedy Sebastian finds himself swimming in a sea of self-loathing despite the optimism of the people around him. He continues to move forward but it’s a constant struggle. Most of the characters in Sebastian are well-imagined by Fischer although there are a few that seem to have been added in as an afterthought or merely to expand the cast. They didn’t detract from the story but they didn’t add to the story either. They could have been omitted and the text would not have suffered.
Sebastian reads a bit slow and stilted during the beginning of the novel. It takes approximately 50 – 70 pages before Fischer finds his voice and the novel hits its stride. It isn’t a challenging read in the beginning but with so many personalities and story to set-up the flow is a bit disjointed. Once it begins moving along and the story grows the reader will find themselves entranced! The historical details are beautifully told. Fischer is a very talented wordsmith and, with Sebastian, has written two enthralling historical fiction novels. I have yet to read the third novel in the Three Nations Trilogy but if the first two novels are any indication it will also be a must-read!
Review by Ashley LaMarClosed the Cover