January 11, 2011

The Boy Who Dared

I'll admit that for the first 50 or so pages I was worried this was going to be like an unnamed movie you hopefully didn't get a chance to see this year.  I belong to a cinema club and get to see a few movies before they get released.  It's fun but there are inevitably a few clunkers.  This past season the first movie we saw was from a woman who had done a documentary on the subject ten years earlier and the story had just stayed with her so much that she decided to make a feature film about the same subject in hopes of spreading the story further.  Unfortunately this director is no feature filmmaker and I think the documentary would have been more interesting.

This book started out that way for me.  I knew Ms. Bartoletti had written the jaw-droppingly amazing Hitler Youth and vaguely remembered the main character in this novel from that book.  But the amount of exposition she was having to cram in was making me feel less than enthusiastic.

Then, at some point, and I don't know exactly when, that all dropped away and I felt for Helmuth (which would be pronounced "Helmood")and became as ashamed at what happened to his country as he had and understood why he felt he had to do what he did and it all made dark and terrible sense to me.  I was proud of him, even though I thought he could have gotten away with his little scheme if he'd been just a little more paranoid and suspicious.

Helmuth loves his country but not the new Nazi regime in his Fatherland in the late 30s.  He begins questioning their methods and even his own Mormon principles, even though it seems partially through his outsider feelings from being a Mormon that lead to some of his outsider-looking-in questioning of the Nazis.

When his brother goes off to war, Helmuth breaks the radio law as he breaks into the closet to listen to British news reports on his brother's short wave radio.  He just wants to know the truth of what's going on and the German stations don't report on their own casualties.  He is surprised to find the British do report on their own losses as well as the German's.

Eventually he and some friends begin making pamphlets to stash in public places to get the news out and eventually they are caught.  I don't want to give away the ending, but Helmuth comes through for his friends.

Then there is the afterward.  There often is in a piece of historical fiction like this, but this is unlike many I've read.  It goes on much longer than usual but that's a good thing.  It follows the lives of his friends  and is an important part of the book itself.

Right after I finished it I went to my most recent cinema club offering, thinking I just had to be in for something a bit lighter.  Nope!

 Boy Who Dared by Susan Campell Bartoletti

Hitler Youth: Growing Up in Hitler's Shadow