The story revolves around Anna Dahlberg who is dealing with a series of dramatic events in her life. Her mother passes away before she can reveal some family secret she has kept for years. Her husband, Lowell, is both tyrannical and unfaithful. She meets a man who she is attracted to, but her uncertainty about her own value prevents her from speaking out. In spite of repeated efforts she has been unable to have a child, something she very much wants. As the story progresses, Anna sets out to solve the mysteries from her mother’s life in Germany during World War II; mysteries that are stunning. These secrets are tangled into her personal history and as the story unwinds the threads begin to slowly unwind.
Reading her mother’s journal, Anna is transported to the past. Her mother’s words bring history to life, and she is drawn ever deeper into the world of Germany during the war. At first, she is stunned to learn her mother, Peggy, knew and was friends with Eva Braun. Meeting as young girls, they are both “escaping” unpleasant lives. While their encounters take place infrequently over the years, something draws them together. It is almost as though they are destined to be friends in spite of their very different lives. While Eva is the Nazi Fuehrer’s mistress, Peggy falls in love with a man who is working with the resistance.
Anna is a complex character whose life experiences have left her uncertain and damaged; a likely explanation for her vulnerability. Her husband has made her feel inferior in spite of her intelligence. At the same time, he relies on her to complete tasks he desperately needs yet feels are beneath him. Their relationship is less a marriage than a business arrangement where she is subservient to him.
It is through her husband’s relationship with Johannes Ritter that she begins the journey to learn more about Eva Braun, Hitler’s mistress, and by extension about her own mother. Ring brilliantly weaves together the relationships between Braun, Anna’s late mother, and Ritter. Along the way other characters appear who are intricately involved in the tale; lighting dark corners, and filling in the blurry spaces. Even the minor characters are interesting, with stories of their own.
This is a complex story that combines one of the most intense periods in world history with the lives of ordinary people. It is apparent it is a well-researched work, delving into little-known facts about Hitler and Braun. Braun comes across as a sensitive young woman, in love with a man who is destined to become associated with mass murders of millions of people.
“The Munich Girl” is one of the best books in any genre that I have read in some time. Ring’s use of German in places, as well as photographs scattered throughout, give the book a ring of authenticity. Intensely gripping, heartbreaking, and inspiring, Ring takes her readers on a trip through time that concludes in a neat package. All questions are answered and many surprises are revealed. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys historical fiction, mystery, and romance.
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Giveaway ends: February 28th, 2017
Description of Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring
The Munich Girl: A novel of the legacies that outlast war.
The past may not be done with us. What secrets is a portrait of Eva Braun hiding?
Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends.
Plunged into the world of the “ordinary” Munich girl who was her mother’s confidante—and a tyrant’s lover—Anna uncovers long-buried secrets and unknown reaches of her heart, to reveal the enduring power of love in the legacies that always outlast war.
Publisher: Whole Sky Books (November 14, 2015)
Category: Historical Fiction, WWII, Germany, Family Saga
Tour date: Feb 1-Mar 31, 2017
Available in Print & ebook, 356 pages
Buy Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring
Author Phyllis Edgerly Ring lives in New England and returns as often as she can to her childhood home in Germany. Her years there left her with a deep desire to understand the experience of Germans during the Second World War. She has studied plant sciences and ecology, worked as a nurse, been a magazine writer and editor, taught English to kindergartners in China, and served as program director at a Baha’i conference center in Maine.
She is also the author of the novel, Snow Fence Road, and the inspirational nonfiction, Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details. Her book for children, Jamila Does Not Want a Bat in Her House, is scheduled for release by Bellwood Press in early 2017.
An Interview with Author Phyllis Edgerly Ring
Thanks very much for this opportunity to share my thoughts, Elizabeth.
- You’ve chosen a very unusual subject to write about. How did you come up with the idea for The Munich Girl?
My original intent was (and remained) to explore more about the lives of everyday Germans during WWII. When life led me to information about Eva Braun, it opened up whole new questions, particularly because she came from a background of everyday Germans – not what many would expect to be Hitler’s choice at all. When the question: “What if you had known Eva Braun, but hadn’t known the role she played in his life?” arose, the story’s momentum became unstoppable for me. A number of people actually did have this experience with her, didn’t find out the truth of her situation until after her death, because she was required to remain an invisible secret in Hitler’s life. That way, he could sustain the adulation he received through the myth that “his bride was Germany”.
- Did you anticipate the amount of research you would need to do? How did you decide where to begin?
Because my interest had been hooked, I welcomed the research process. I stumbled into this focus because, as I sought to understand the experience of German people during the war, the very first book I read was about Eva Braun. The author pointed out that Braun’s experience with Hitler mirrored Germany’s. First he seduced them, then abandoned them, and finally, led them into destruction. Through further reading, I gained a more complete view of the time period in Germany, and of the world Eva Braun inhabited. I then I began to study her films and photographs more closely, since photography was such an essential part of who she was. It’s why we have such personal visual records of Hitler, and many of her images reveal a lot about the tone and circumstances of her life, too.
- As you did your research did your feelings about the real people, Eva Braun, Hitler, any others, change? In what way?
As I learned more about Hitler than I’d ever want to, it was unmistakable how flawed his psyche and personality were. Textbook narcissistic personality disorder, later compounded by the erratic results of a mixture of unstable drugs. But once you get beyond the significant inaccuracies published about Braun over the years, you find a more rounded and humane personality, one whom many credible sources even admired. She was dismissed by historians as unimportant when, in fact, as one German biographer noted, she holds the key to better understanding Hitler. But only if we’re willing to allow that, in addition to behaving monstrously, he was also human. For some, that idea’s still something like heresy. However, a paradox that I think could tell us a lot about our present imbalances of inequality is that the very sorts of caring, nurturing qualities that the Nazis sought to demean and suppress were exactly what Hitler came home to Eva Braun for. One question for me is, when, and how, will we find the collective will to value and honor these qualities in both genders, and all situations? It is the devaluing of them that has allowed, and continues to allow, atrocities like the Holocaust to happen.
- How much did you know about Nazi Germany, Hitler, and Eva Braun before you began your research?
Very little, despite the fact WWII was a big part of my family’s story – my parents met in Europe during the war. After they had both died, it was as though something opened up in me, hungry to understand. My military family lived in Germany immediately post-war, and then again in the early 1960s, when I was there with them. I’ve loved Germany from early in my life, so that certainly spurred this process for me, too.
- Did you encounter any surprises or come across any unexpected information while researching?
A big surprise was the testimony from an SS officer named Gottlob Berger at the 1948 Ministry Trials at Nuremberg. He said there that an action Eva Braun took in the last week of her life saved tens of thousands of Allied prisoners of war. The record shows that she almost never interfered or intervened in anything Hitler did as leader but in this case, she found Hitler’s written orders to shoot the prisoners and gave those orders to Berger (so that they weren’t given to someone else). Berger testified that Braun knew that he would protect the prisoners of war, and not carry out the orders. I believe she did this out of the regard she had for life, some understanding of the moral principles behind the Geneva Convention — and, bizarre as it may seem to us today, to protect how Hitler would be perceived after the war. This suggests to me that, much like his secretaries and others in his inner circle, she lived a compartmentalized existence that, even that close to the end, knew far less about the Nazis’ human-rights atrocities than has been supposed. A personal turning point for me was the discovery that some British members of my family were likely saved by this action of hers.
- Do you identify with any of your characters and in what way?
The dynamic that Peggy (who befriends Eva) describes of never feeling that she can be fully herself – of having to choose between things, based on others’ views of them, is conditioning that overshadowed my own life for a long time. Today, I know that I experience my own power of choice more deeply as a result of the process of letting myself explore a potentially controversial or volatile subject like Hitler’s mistress in as neutral a way as possible, to see what sort of larger picture might emerge.
- If you could speak with any of the characters in your book which would you chose and what would you ask?
Surprising as it is to me, I’d ask what is probably the most unlikable character, Lowell, just how his psyche became distorted enough to despise and reject the very human qualities that he most needs (and secretly craves, but never values or honors). I feel this is at the heart of the imbalance between feminine and masculine human attributes – and imbalance of power — in our world.
- What kind of response have you received for your depiction of Eva Braun?
A broad range that includes those who connect, even empathize with the character of Eva, those who connect with the story but struggle with connecting with her, and those who absolutely don’t want to connect with her, who object to her being there at all. I’ve been astonished when readers who I might not expect to easily relate to her – those whose families experienced huge losses during the Holocaust, for example – actually have a lot of empathy for what she reveals as a character. One editor asked early in the book’s process, “How are you going to get people past the fact it’s her?” I knew I wasn’t. Readers are either willing to go that distance or they’re not. It’s never been my intent to redeem her in any way, but rather for her to act as a motif for the self-suppression and repression that are still rampant in many lives. For me, she also represents that we are a mixture of strengths and character deficiencies, and we make a meaningful life through the choices we make in relation to those.
- I understand you met and interviewed some people who knew the “subject” of your search? How did you find them and how did they feel about discussing their relationships with you?
They “found” me — as with so much in the process of this book, it led me to them, and they were most willing to share their thoughts. One of the most helpful was from a family that had been treated very badly by the Nazis. She had every reason to hate them, and Eva Braun by association. But she had met and interacted with her and described her as a person of true character. She’d been as baffled as so many have about why Eva would care for Hitler. But this source emphasized how thoughtful and kind Eva Braun often was.
- What was your ultimate goal in writing this book? Did that goal change over time?
Initially, it was to give a glimpse into the experience of Germans during the war, and show how varied it was. Though they lived in a very dangerous place they could not necessarily escape, many Germans took risks to help and protect others, but many of these stories got lost once they were seen as part of the “losing enemy” country. Within the first year of writing, I also began to accept that the goal, to the best of my ability, was to convey themes that the story was suggesting. These include that any good we seek to do will always have enduring effect, sometimes for successive generations. Another is that it is our willingness to build what is good, together, that is the legacy of love that always outlasts war, destruction, and violence.
- Now a few questions about you. When did you begin writing? Did you anticipate making it as a career?
I’ve been writing since my teens and publishing work since my late 20s. I wrote for magazines and newspapers for many years, which helped build skills I value now as I write books. I also worked in a variety of other jobs, but always found the time to write and publish as I did.
- Do you have specific routines you follow when working on a book? Any “superstitions”?
No superstitions. My biggest personal strategy is guarding my time and energy when writing process is especially active. That’s when I go into a retreating mode, as it asks for most everything I’ve got. And, honestly, I love the experience of it. Immersing in the absorbing atmosphere of writing, in cycles, helps me find and sustain balance in all areas of my life. It’s like something sacred, rather like work as worship, I guess.
- What’s the most difficult part about being a writer? What do you enjoy most/least?
Sometimes the struggle is in making peace with the inescapable fact that every writing work has its own timetable. It’s directly related to the one connected with my own development, and it’s wise not to try to force or speed that up. What never fails to delight me is that I’m always happy when I let myself be absorbed in a project that attracts me, and it’s something I can pursue anywhere I am in the world.
- If you weren’t an author what do you think you would be doing?
Something that incorporates story’s powerful role in the process of healing. I worked in the health field early in my life and saw that story plays a vital part in how we heal, because it helps us come to resolution and understanding, and make meaning out of our experience.
- What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Read – especially work that you like and admire, and come to understand why you do. Persevere in practicing writing as you also keep learning more about craft. Do all of these until you find both your voice and the process that works for you. Then relish the rewriting as much as you do the exciting early drafting that brings with it so much discovery. Also, learn how to be edited, so that you’re able to recognize when someone’s applying this fine skill to your work and it really does improve it, help you past your blind spots, etc.
- Do you have any new projects you’re working on that you would like to share?
I’ve waded into 2 new projects. One is what I’d call spiritual memoir, based on my experience with writing The Munich Girl and some of the nearly inexplicable synchronicities that it brought. The other is historical fiction set in 19th-century New England.
- Who do you read? Your favorite author/book?
There are so many. Right now, my reading ratio is two-thirds nonfiction to one-third fiction, and current favorites are memoirist Maureen Murdock and novelist Barbara Davis.
- Imagine someone is writing a book about you. What would you like her to focus on?
The overall patterns of my life, the constellation of qualities that they point to or reveal.
- Describe yourself in one word.
- Do you have a favorite book quote and what is it?
“Sometimes, we must outlast even what seems worse than we have imagined, because we believe in the things that are good. So that there can be good things again.”
- Lastly, do you have any special events coming up you would like to share? (Book signings, TV/new/magazine interviews)?
I’m right on the verge of the publication of my first children’s book, Jamila Does Not Want a Bat in Her House, by Bellwood Press.
Additional Reviews for “The Munich Girl”
Fiction Finalist in 2016 Eric Hoffer Book Awards
“I was drawn in by Phyllis Ring’s economical and expressive language. Then the story took over! Protagonist Anna Dahlberg must face the emotional fallout from a traumatic plane crash, while simultaneously uncovering the first clues in a shocking generational mystery involving key players in the Third Reich. Everything’s complicated by a new romance that may help her overcome the past and find her true inner strength. But is it real? Love can manifest itself in enigmatic–and unexpected–ways.”- Elizabeth Sims, author and contributing editor at Writer’s Digestmagazine
“… fresh perspective of German women at opposing ends of the warring spectrum … a beautiful story of enduring friendship and the lengths people will go to for love.”- The Stellar Review
“So persuasive is this novel that, before I could believe it was in fact a piece of fiction, I contacted the author and asked where she did her research and where she came up with the idea.”-Leslie Handler, The Philadelphia Inquirer
“This book weaves real life with fiction beautifully and makes you want to know more about the cast of characters. This is a book that you may have a hard time remembering it is fiction as you turn the pages. That’s how well the author brings her characters to life. This book was stunning. I highly recommend it to anyone that loves this time period.”-A Chick Who Reads
“The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring is an elegant historical fiction novel of Eva Braun. Besides being Adolph Hitler’s mistress (and short-lived wife) little is known about this woman in history. Peggy’s diary entries were applied seamlessly blending past with the present. I yearned to enter the streets of 1940s Germany and discover the meaning behind a simple portrait and view the forging of an unlikely friendship. Phyllis Edgerly Ring has written a superbly researched novel of a historical figure whose’ story is impeccably told.”-Whitney, First Impression Reviews
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