Monday, January 15, 2007

Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene

During Patty Bergen’s twelfth summer, German prisoners arrive in her hometown, to be housed in a nearby prison camp. It’s 1941 and everyone knows about the Nazis. They also know that the Bergen family is Jewish, so the people of Jenkinsville, Arkansas are particularly surprised and horrified when Patty helps an escaped prisoner, Anton, hide in her parents' unused garage apartment.

I loved the fact that this story is the reverse of what happened within Europe, as courageous people hid Jews from the Nazis. Patty is a Jew who helps a young Nazi soldier hide after he escapes from the nearby prison camp. The young Jew, Anton, is an intelligent, educated and kind person with a great sense of humor. Patty has abusive parents who don’t like her, although the reasoning for their dislike is difficult to discern. Her father whips her for the slightest infraction and her mother simply likes to browbeat her into submission and is verbally abusive, constantly comparing Patty to her pretty little sister, Sharon. The only person who is truly kind to Patty is their hired “colored woman”, Ruth. Ruth is loving and wise. Her grandparents are also kind to her, but they dislike her father and, in the long run, are not much help.

I enjoyed Summer of My German Soldier, but was a slightly disappointed. I expected more interaction between Patty and Anton. The end was hopeful and the characters were fairly believable, yet the dialogue sounded a little forced to me. Still, I can't deny the writing was very good and I would read more by this author. The back cover states that Summer of My German Soldier was a National Book Award finalist and an ALA Notable Book.

There were some lovely sentences and bits of wisdom or insight in this book, and I took notes. Unfortunately, I wrote my notes on the heat sheets for kiddo's swim meet, he stuck them in his swim bag where they got soaked by a wet towel and bathing suit, and he claims he threw the papers away. So much for quotes. If I can locate them, however, I'll update this post because I did think there were some things worth sharing.



  1. That is a twist on the typical hiding the Jew storyline. Sounds good.

  2. This brings back memories, Nancy! I read Summer of My German Soldier when I was in the 7th grade. I fell in love with the story so much that I "forgot" to give the book back to the school when all the copies were collected. It's been years and years since I read it, but I still have the book and I remember it fondly. It's one of those books I fear ruining if I ever reread again . . . Thank you for a wonderful review!

  3. I read this when I was in school as well. I reread it last year (my only reread for the year) and really enjoyed it.

  4. Booklogged,

    That's what I liked best; the story was the reverse of what you typically read. And, there were consequences for the heroine's actions, which she faced up to with courage - loved that.


    This is the first time I've read the book, although it's been around long enough that I guess I just overlooked it when I was in school. I love the way you put "forgot" in quotes. :) There are a couple I wish I'd forgotten to return because I no longer know the author or title - just have a vague memory of a wonderful story. I've reread a few special books and found they weren't as good on the second read, so I can definitely understand the fear of ruining a book by rereading.


    I love it when I just happen to read a book a lot of people are already acquainted with! Have you read the sequel? I'm definitely going to look for the sequel.

  5. Never really had an urge to read Summer of My German Soldier, but now I'm thinkin' I might give it a go!

  6. Andi,

    I think you'd like the heroine; she's got spunk. I really loved the fact that she obviously knew there would be consequences to her actions but she still didn't hesitate. :)

  7. I was so happy to click on your blog and see the cover to Summer of My German Soldier. I've been wanting to read this recently, (I'm not sure if I read it when I was younger), especially with my YA kick in full swing. I'm glad you liked it.

  8. Camille,

    Naturally, I had to leap over to your blog to see what you've been reading. Good stuff, it sounds like. My son has read Because of Winn-Dixie but refused to see the movie because he figured it was sad enough reading material without having to watch it. LOL I can understand that.

    Hope you like Summer of My German Soldier. :)

  9. This book looks good and I have requested it from my library. :) I'll let you know what I think when I read it. :)

  10. Krista,

    I'll look forward to reading your thoughts. Hope you enjoy it. :)

  11. I think my daughter read (and loved) this when she was in junior high. It sounds so familiar that I wonder if I read it when she was finished.

    If you like a reverse narrative, give Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris. It's fabulous!

  12. Les,

    Quit it! I don't need to add more to my list. But, okay, I'll look. LOL Yes, I do like the way the concept is reversed. I got some cabinets to hold my TBR stacks but the hubby has told me that I have to fit anything and everything I bring home into those cabinets, so I'm trying to be careful and not bring much home.

    But, boy, did I have fun with my gift cards!!


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