Eva's Cousin (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

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9780345449061: Eva's Cousin (Ballantine Reader's Circle)

Berchtesgaden, Germany, is a beautiful place, set among the gentle meadow-clad hills rising to the sheer heights of bare Alpine peaks. It is here where an elderly woman arrives and recollects her past—and her peripheral role in a chapter of world history. She walks along a beaten path, which has come into being because so many tourists have ventured this way . . . to see something that exists only in her memory.

In the summer of 1944, twenty-year-old Marlene is thrilled when her older, more glamorous cousin, Eva Braun, Adolph Hitler’s mistress, invites her to come to the Fuhrer’s Bavarian mountain retreat. Against her father’s wishes, Marlene accepts, and immediately sets forth to Berghof.

There, while Hitler is away desperately trying to turn the tides of war, Marlene finds herself in a strange paradise, a world of opulence and imminent danger, of freedom and surveillance. The two women sneak off and skinny-dip in a nearby-lake, watch films in the Fuhrer’s private cinema, and flirt with the SS officers at the dinner table—one of whom will become Marlene’s first lover.

Initially delighted by Eva’s attentions, Marlene later tries to understand the elusive connection between her cousin and the man she loves.

In quiet defiance, she begins to commit her own acts of subversion, which include listening to BBC radio broadcasts, forbidden by the Fuhrer. But a clandestine mission of mercy will force her to question her allegiance to both her cousin and her country—and to face the chilling reality that exists outside her sheltered world.

Based on the true experiences of Eva Braun’s cousin, Gertrude Weisker, who has shared her memories with Sibylle Knauss after more than fifty years of silence, Eva’s Cousin is a novel that illuminates the banality of the domestic face of evil. It casts a special light on the profound questions of innocence and complicity that still haunt much of the world today.
From the Hardcover edition.

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Review:

Eva Braun's cousin, Gertrude Weisker, was 20 years old when she played companion to Braun at the Berghof, Hitler's Bavarian aerie. Weisker kept silent about her time as a Nazi houseguest until she finally told all to German novelist Sibylle Knauss. Now Knauss has transformed Weisker's memories into the novel Eva's Cousin. While the novel's protagonist, Marlene, is a fictionalized version of Weisker, the rest of the infamous cast travel under their real names: Braun, Hitler, Goering, Speer. It's an odd and sometimes confusing project. As Marlene accompanies Eva through the final days of World War II--the days leading up to Braun's and Hitler's double suicide--we're never quite sure if we're witness to Weisker's memories or Knauss's invention. At its best, though, the book makes a compelling investigation into the mundanity of evil. Hitler is pathologized, but never diminished, as Marlene and Eva and all the rest tiptoe around him, careful not to upset him: "Nothing takes more courage than to disappoint a despot. Should he ever discover that free human beings with free will exist, it would surely be the death of him." Knauss cleverly counters Marlene's postadolescent musings with the mythically terrible world she inhabits: "I feel so lonely in Hitler's teahouse," she tells us. And "The only person who did understand me was Albert Speer." These juxtapositions indict Marlene for her very innocence, and make Eva's Cousin a powerful document of witness. --Claire Dederer

From the Back Cover:

“An intimate portrait of two women at the center of history and how innocence itself can be a crime against humanity. My book of the year.”
—LINDA GRANT
Orange Prize-winning author of When I Lived in Modern Times

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Book Description Ballantine Books, United States, 2003. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Reprint. Language: English . Brand New Book. Berchtesgaden, Germany, is a beautiful place, set among the gentle meadow-clad hills rising to the sheer heights of bare Alpine peaks. It is here where an elderly woman arrives and recollects her past--and her peripheral role in a chapter of world history. She walks along a beaten path, which has come into being because so many tourists have ventured this way . . . to see something that exists only in her memory. In the summer of 1944, twenty-year-old Marlene is thrilled when her older, more glamorous cousin, Eva Braun, Adolph Hitler s mistress, invites her to come to the Fuhrer s Bavarian mountain retreat. Against her father s wishes, Marlene accepts, and immediately sets forth to Berghof. There, while Hitler is away desperately trying to turn the tides of war, Marlene finds herself in a strange paradise, a world of opulence and imminent danger, of freedom and surveillance. The two women sneak off and skinny-dip in a nearby-lake, watch films in the Fuhrer s private cinema, and flirt with the SS officers at the dinner table--one of whom will become Marlene s first lover. Initially delighted by Eva s attentions, Marlene later tries to understand the elusive connection between her cousin and the man she loves. In quiet defiance, she begins to commit her own acts of subversion, which include listening to BBC radio broadcasts, forbidden by the Fuhrer. But a clandestine mission of mercy will force her to question her allegiance to both her cousin and her country--and to face the chilling reality that exists outside her sheltered world. Based on the true experiences of Eva Braun s cousin, Gertrude Weisker, who has shared her memories with Sibylle Knauss after more than fifty years of silence, Eva s Cousin is a novel that illuminates the banality of the domestic face of evil. It casts a special light on the profound questions of innocence and complicity that still haunt much of the world today. From the Hardcover edition. Bookseller Inventory # BZV9780345449061

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