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The Night I Danced with Rommel

The Night I Danced with Rommel - Elisabeth Marrion This story is about Hilde and her life growing up in Germany (after WWI) and becoming a wife and mother during WWII. As a girl in East Prussia, she has a dream to become a singer one day. However, her father sends her to work as a housemaid in Berlin at the age of 14 and from there on, she doesn’t have time for dreams. Eventually, she meets a young man, Karl, who will become her husband and who will also spend much of their married life serving in the military away from his growing family. Karl ends up serving under Rommel in Germany and then Africa.

I found this to be a very interesting book. It was based on the life of the author’s mother (if I understood the description correctly) so much of the book is factual. Seeing Germany gearing up for another war through the eyes of a house cleaner and mother showed how surreal the politics and resulting war to many of the average people of Germany at the time. Hilde grew up with Jewish friends and maintained those friendships until they were abruptly ended (usually by the sudden disappearance of her Jewish friends) or because the association was becoming too dangerous for Hilde and her young children. An anti-Semitic attitude was not part of Hilde’s personality, and many of her family and friends also lacked this unappealing trait.

Then there are the every day things. As Germany starts building up their armies, young men must go off for training and certain resources start to become hard to come by, just a few at first. Once the war is in full swing, it is a much different scene, but through Hilde’s eyes we get to see how things changed gradually, bit by bit. Germany’s streets weren’t covered in city militia enforcing curfew overnight. Food supplies didn’t become scarce in a month’s time.

One of Hilde’s children develops a chronic medical condition about half way through the book. It is one of those conditions that needs continuous treatment throughout the war and I thought it interesting to see how that was dealt with. Also, Hilde and Karl see each other infrequently, so their children are spaced out throughout the war. Can you picture yourself expecting a child in war-torn Germany during the time of the night aerial raids? Over all, this was an intriguing read providing a glimpse into an average woman’s life during one of humanity’s most destructive episodes.

Narration: Nancy Peterson did an excellent job, being the perfect voice for Hilde. She performed the entire book in a German accent and this added so much to the ambiance of the book. She had a good range of voices for all the supporting characters as well. Bennett Allen had a very short piece, playing the role of Karl, at the end of the book. It was a very nice touch, adding to the poignancy of the ending.

What I Liked: The reality of the book; the book shows how things changed gradually; Hilde’s perseverance despite losing friends and family, having several small children, and her husband gone much of the time; the ending was touching.

What I Disliked: The cover is rather severe.