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Review: Summer of my German Soldier

April 9, 2010

Patty Bergen lives in a small town in Arkansas.  Her parents own the local department store, but their marriage is strained and her father isn’t happy.  Thankfully, the family’s housekeeper, Ruth, loves Patty and is there for her.

The summer that Patty turns 12, some German prisoners of war are housed in a camp in her town.  After a chance encounter with one of the prisoners, Patty realizes that not all Germans are evil.  When she has the opportunity to help the prisoner, she risks everything for him.

I loved Summer of My German Soldier by Bette Greene, but had a lot of trouble describing it because I didn’t want to give too much of the plot away.   This book is full of twists and turns and took me to so many unexpected places.  It does a wonderful job of exploring some difficult topics.

One of the topics covered in this book is prejudices.  Not only against African Americans, but against Jews (the Bergens are Jewish) and even against Germans.

Patty’s father takes much of his unhappiness and anger out on Patty, so child abuse is covered, too.  It broke my heart when Patty thought:

How could I say in words what I couldn’t really understand myself?  Sometimes I think it’s because I’m bad that my father wants to do the right thing by beating it out of me.  And at other times I think he’s beating out of my body all his own bad.  My head began its confused revolutions.

This book brought tears to my eyes several times.  I don’t think you can read this book without being affected by something in it.

Challenges: Shelf Discovery Challenge

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33 Comments leave one →
  1. April 9, 2010 5:40 am

    I remember when a number of girls were reading this book in middle school, but I never did. Too busy with Stephen King I guess. I had considered reading it for the Shelf Discovery Challenge!

  2. April 9, 2010 7:42 am

    I totally agree that this book broke my heart. Patty is such a wonderful character and I loved her perspective on life.

  3. April 9, 2010 8:39 am

    I haven’t heard of this book. It really seems interesting. It’s sad. It’s so many different ways to be prejudice. It seems to be one of those human flaws.

  4. April 9, 2010 8:56 am

    I’ve never read this because I always thought from the title it was just a summer love story. I really appreciate your review disabusing me of this and now will look for it again!

  5. April 9, 2010 9:53 am

    people are crying, hearts are being broken…gosh, how can I not check this one out?

  6. April 9, 2010 10:15 am

    It sounds like a great book. I don’t like to cry, but love books that take me to places I’ve never been and make me feel strong emotions.

    Straight From Hel

  7. April 9, 2010 10:32 am

    I came across this book a month or so ago, and remember reading a very good review of it then. Your review has convinced me to pick this one up to read soon.

  8. April 9, 2010 11:15 am

    I remember loving this book when I was a kid, and I’m pretty positive I read it more than once. But, I remember very little of the plot now! Time for a re-read, I think.

  9. April 9, 2010 12:00 pm

    This sounds like a very powerful book. Beautiful review, Kathy!

  10. April 9, 2010 12:14 pm

    This was one of my favorite books as a teenager, and I remember it breaking my heart but being such a great read at the same time.

  11. April 9, 2010 12:43 pm

    I meant to bring this book home for the RAT!! I will read it sometime!

  12. April 9, 2010 2:36 pm

    I find that the topic of prejudice against the German resulting from WW2 is not often talked about. I can see why, since there were so many other huge issues to handle after the war, but I’d like to read about it. I think this is a book I’d enjoy.

  13. April 9, 2010 3:18 pm

    Oh, I really like the sound of this one. I’ll add it to my TBR list. Thanks, Kathy!

  14. Kathleen permalink
    April 9, 2010 3:47 pm

    I have a vague memory of reading this one in 6th grade. I need to put this on my list of childhood books to reread. It sounds like one I would enjoy now although I’m not sure why I don’t remember much about reading it the first time around. I think I was too hung up on books like The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton that I read about the same time!

  15. April 9, 2010 4:15 pm

    Sounds like a little too much for me, too sad, too heavy. And I definitely couldn’t read it with my daughter, I’d be crying constantly.

  16. April 9, 2010 4:31 pm

    Never heard of this book but it’s a little too sad for me. Poor kid! Her father deserves a good beating.
    Thanks for the review Kathy.

  17. April 9, 2010 4:54 pm

    I read this when I was younger – I remember it made me cry.

  18. April 9, 2010 5:41 pm

    This book was required reading when I was in the 8th grade and I loved it. I still have my copy (which I, ahem, never got around to returning) sitting on my bookshelf. I should reread it one of these days!

  19. April 9, 2010 7:56 pm

    Lovely review, Kathy. This book sounds familiar to me (I will check my shelves, but I don’t think we have it.) Enjoy your weekend.

  20. April 9, 2010 9:54 pm

    Oh, I actually got this from Bookmooch recently because it’s one of those YA classics that I never got to as a young adult, because I more or less skipped YA & went straight to adult books. I HAVE to make time to read this soon- thanks for reminding me!

  21. April 9, 2010 10:03 pm

    Wow – this sounds great. I like that you don’t give too much away. A simple ‘This is great, read it’ is enough for me – I don’t like to know too much before I read a book (I never even read the back cover!).

    Great review!

  22. April 9, 2010 10:04 pm

    It sounds vaguely familiar to me. Did the soldier have a friend who was an artist? or maybe I’m thinking of a different book…

  23. April 9, 2010 10:57 pm

    I love the review. Its a book worth searching for. Thanks!

  24. April 10, 2010 3:07 pm

    My father worked at a canning factory in our town when I was little girl. The factory had nearby barracks that had been used to house the WWII POW laborers. I always found the history fascinating. Several in the community talked about their positive experiences interacting with the prisoners.

  25. April 11, 2010 2:18 pm

    I never read this one but I’ve always heard good things about it. The quote is so heartbreaking and the story sounds so intense. I’ll be reading it now that you’ve recommended it so highly. Great review!

  26. April 11, 2010 3:59 pm

    I remember reading this book as a child and loving it. It was perhaps the novel that made me realize how much I adore historical fiction. Thanks for reminding me about it. It would be fun to go back and read it again!

  27. April 11, 2010 4:01 pm

    Though I haven’t reread this I must have been around 10 or 12 when I read it after having discovered the Diary of Anne Frank. I’ve been intrigued by that period of history ever since. I also just finished another WWII memoir from a girl who was 14 or 15 when the war first really touched her family and was taken to a work camp with other non-jewish prisoners who were deemed capable of being useful. The Secret Holocaust Diaries is similar to Anne Frank in that Nonna was young when first taken by the Germans and has an incredible story of faith and survival against the odds. The books are also different in that Anne was Jewish and Nonna was Russian with a grandfather who had been a cossack under the final Romanov Tsar. Anyone who is interested can find an excerpt and a review at these links after 5am Pacific monday.

  28. April 11, 2010 11:17 pm

    Can’t believe I missed this one when I was growing up. I’ll have to pick it up the next time I’m at the library.

  29. April 12, 2010 4:41 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this book, but it sounds like it would really tug at my heartstrings. I have not been reading a lot of books about WWII lately because I burnt out on them last year, but this one sounds like it could be an exception! I am glad you loved it, great review!

  30. stacybuckeye permalink
    April 14, 2010 4:12 pm

    I’d fogotten all about this one. I need to read it.

  31. April 19, 2010 1:22 pm

    I’ve had my eye on this book for ages. Glad to see it’s a worthwhile read. I hope it’s okay to link to your review on War Through the Generations.

  32. April 25, 2010 6:01 am

    OK, I want this book. I cannot possibly miss out on this one. Thank you, Kathy!

  33. Chavela permalink
    October 29, 2010 1:36 am

    Not to be mean but most kids find Summer of My German Soldier pointless, boring and disgusting.
    It’s Disgusting because Patty is 12 and Anton is 22! Like come on! Also, the story takes forever and bores most people and the ending was such a disappointment to a lot of people. Yes, it was sad but very slow too.

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