My Own Dear Brother

My Own Dear Brother
Holly Müller
Bloomsbury USA
October 11, 2016
Hardcover
464

It is 1944, and war has taken the men in Nazi-controlled Austria to the front line. For thirteen-year-old Ursula Hildesheim, life in the village of Felddorf remains almost as it was: bullied by her schoolmates, enlisted in endless chores by her mother and sister, thieving, and running wild with her adored older brother, Anton.

But then Russian prisoners escape from the local concentration camp, her mother starts an affair with a married man, her only friend goes missing, and her brother's allegiance to the Hitler Youth emerges in shocking ways--and Ursula finds herself alone, disturbed by dark memories, and surrounded by threat.

In this new world of conflict, Ursula discovers a bravery she has never known before and is forced to recognize that danger comes not only from the enemy at the door but from the enemy within.

My Own Dear Brother is a remarkable coming-of-age story and an unflinching study of both cruelty and courage. Rich in folklore, it introduces a daring young heroine and a powerful new literary voice.

 

Review:

I’m not even sure how to express my feelings toward “My Own Dear Brother.”  It is easily one of the best and most educational young adult books about World War II and the Holocaust that I have ever read – and I have read A LOT.

Perhaps what makes it so unforgettable is the focus on what is so often overlooked in fictional literature about the time period.  It focuses on the lives of those in countries controlled by Nazi Germany, in this case Austria, as well as what was done to those suffering various forms of disabilities. Every day life is explored, including the Nazi Youth, fears of local residents of “The Party,” and the divisions found even amongst close-knit families.

Ursula and her family and friends, as well as many of the townspeople, are so thoroughly developed that it felt as though I knew them.  Their struggles, pain, and laughter felt real.  The plot is steady, but takes the time to meander and really show how things were.  Nothing was black and white or simplified.  Beware though, this is not for the faint of heart.  As can be reasonably expected, there are racial slurs, brutality, and a total disrespect for human life.  There is also an animal death that is extremely crucial to the plot.

I cannot recommend “My Own Dear Brother” enough to those who enjoy reading about history and learning new points of view.  It’s best for high schoolers and adults and would be a valuable asset in classrooms.

This unbiased review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Racial Slurs, Domestic Violence, Disturbing Themes, Animal Abuse

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