“Stones from the River” continued …
“Stones from the River” is a 1994 novel by Ursula Hegi. I read it then and was enthralled with the scope of her book. It is about a German village before, during and after World War II and chronicles the life of a dwarf named Trudi Montag and her relationships with the towns many characters and intrigues.
Recently I found a copy of the book at a yard sale and decided to re-read it. I enjoyed it just as much as I had the first time, almost 18 years ago! So, imagine my pleasure when I came across “Children and Fire” recently at my library and realized that (although written in 2011) it encompasses the same village and the same people as in Ms. Hegi’s 1994 book.
“Children and Fire” may be set in the same place but it is definitely not a sequel to “Stones from the River”. The entire novel centers around just one pivotal day, Tuesday, February 27th, 1934 in the small village of Burgdorf, Germany and one teacher, Thekla Jansen, whose ten year old students are being seduced by the pomp and promises of the early Hitler regime.
We read in amazement as Thekla, against her every instinct, is also lured into believing that book burnings and ethnic cleansing may have merit. It is only by the clever inclusion of 7 chapters dating back to 1899 and ending with 1933 that Ms. Hegi reveals the actual facts that Thekla herself does not know and which, in the last chapter, will shake her to the core.
Although not an easy book to read I, literally, could not put it down and (having been born in 1933 and remembering the WWII years vividly) I’m glad to see that the horror of those years is still alive in our current literature. I truly believe that if “we forget our past we are destined to relive it” !