Quill & Quire Review - Run Like Jager

Quill & Quire
Reviewed by: Marnie Parsons

In her first novel, Karen Bass tells the story of a Canadian teen coming to terms with his grandfather's history. Kurt Schreiber, a Canadian exchange student, spends a year in the town in Germany where his grandfather grew up. His grandfather has always remained silent about his youth in the Nazi era, refusing even to speak his mother tongue. Kurt, however, is drawn to the language, and eager to learn of his heritage. Kurt meets Wolf and, his grandfather's best friend, peer in the Hitler Youth, and comrade fighting on the Eastern Front. Brandt's character is the novel's true strength. His stories give Kurt an uncompromising insight into his grandfather. But the realization that his grandfather fought for the Nazis is difficult - Kurt is tormented by dreams in which he seems complicit in Nazi atrocities. Part of what he must discover about his grandfather concerns the humanity and dignity of the common soldier and the complexity of life during wartime. Bass's novel is thoughtful and solidly written. It offers an interesting alternative to the books about the Second World War and the Holocaust from the perspectives of the victors and the persecuted. That humanity extends into the more typical teenage exchanges Kurt has with his peers. His difficulties with the brutish bully Peter and his deepening feeling for his best friend Marta, however, are the weaker sections of the novel, and the resolution to Kurt's problems with Peter is too pat. The coincidence of Marta being Brandt's granddaughter stretches credibility a bit, as does Kurt's fortuitous encounter with Brandt. Still, if a reader can grant the book those unlikely possibilities, the rest falls quite nicely into place. Article by Marnie Parsons.

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