Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: "The Undertaking" by Audrey Magee

I heard some buzz about this book, so I ordered it from my library. It sounded like a book I would read, and I hadn't read any World War II books in awhile (kind of a departure for me), so I thought it was a good pick. The day I picked it up from the library Shannon over at River City Reading posted a favorable review. So that night, with my husband absorbed in pre-season inconsequential football games I stretched out on my couch and laid into it.

I have to say, this book is best read in such conditions: with a full belly, in a warm and safe home, and with a loved one within arms reach. Do not read when feeling : sad, vulnerable, bummed. Because this book will not help those feelings.

Katherina and Peter get married,though they are hundreds of miles apart, and have never met. (And here I thought that a bride and groom in the same room was a necessity for a wedding.) They each have their own motivations, Katherina will get a widow's pension if something happens to Peter, and Peter gets a week's leave from the brutal conditions on the Eastern front.

The time they spend together is short, but memorable. But before long Peter is back in the war and Katherina continues to struggle with her overbearing parents and the struggles of the home front during war time.Her struggles seem to pale in comparison to Peter's horror stories at first, but as the war progresses it gets worse on the home front too.

There are a couple of things that I really liked about this book. There was no sugar coating about how terrible the conditions were during the siege of Stalingrad, and pretty much the whole Eastern front. They were incomprehensibly bad. I liked that it was from German's perspective. So much of the books out there are exclusively from the Allied perspective. I thought it was an interesting writing choice that there are big gaps of time in the narrative where we get to draw our own conclusions about what happens that we aren't told about. Not an easy read but a good read, 3 stars!



  1. Sounds really interesting! I might read a few happy books before I dive in, but it sounds like I'd enjoy it!

    1. Yes it should definitely be read between 2 nice, happy comfort books! I accidently read this book and then a book about genocide back to back. NOT GOOD! haha

  2. I hadn't heard much about this before I picked it up (I didn't even know it was on the Orange Prize list until I was finished), so it ended up being a big surprise for me. I'm glad you liked it, despite it's tough subject!

    1. You were an early adapter! It reminded me that I should be very thankful I'm not eligible for the draft because I'd be worth exactly Nothing as a soldier.


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