AN INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
Featured in Entertainment Weekly, People, The Millions, and USA TODAY
“An unforgettable and resplendent novel which will take its place among the great historical fiction written about World War II.” —Adriana Trigiani, bestselling author of The Shoemaker's Wife
A young girl flees Nazi-occupied Germany with her family and best friend, only to discover that the overseas refuge they had been promised is an illusion in this “engrossing and heartbreaking” (Library Journal, starred review) debut novel, perfect for fans of The Nightingale, Lilac Girls, and The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
Berlin, 1939. Before everything changed, Hannah Rosenthal lived a charmed life. But now the streets of Berlin are draped in ominous flags; her family’s fine possessions are hauled away; and they are no longer welcome in the places they once considered home. A glimmer of hope appears in the shape of the St. Louis, a transatlantic ocean liner promising Jews safe passage to Cuba. At first, the liner feels like a luxury, but as they travel, the circumstances of war change, and the ship that was to be their salvation seems likely to become their doom.
New York, 2014. On her twelfth birthday, Anna Rosen receives a mysterious package from an unknown relative in Cuba, her great-aunt Hannah. Its contents inspire Anna and her mother to travel to Havana to learn the truth about their family’s mysterious and tragic past.
Weaving dual time frames, and based on a true story, The German Girl is a beautifully written and deeply poignant story about generations of exiles seeking a place to call home.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
“I was almost 12 years old when I decided to kill my parents.” It’s hard to think of a more audacious opening line than the one that starts off Cuban-born journalist Armando Lucas Correa’s debut. His entire novel—a timely, clever refugee tale that alternates between Nazi-occupied Berlin, post-9/11 New York, and modern-day Havana—packs similar punches. Inspired by an ill-fated World War II voyage, The German Girl explores the intriguing bond between two distant relatives whose young lives were shattered by unspeakable tragedies seven decades apart. It’s a heartbreaking story that’s both well-researched and lyrically told.
In 1939, the German ship St. Louis set sail from Hamburg for Havana carrying more than 900 passengers, most of them German Jewish refugees, escaping from the Nazi regime. Correa's debut novel follows one of those passengers, a 12-year-old girl named Hannah Rosenthal, as she and her rich, influential family hope to start a new life in Havana. But when they arrive, the St. Louis and its passengers are refused entry. Hannah and her mother manage to debark, but most of the other passengers including Hannah's father and her best friend Leo are forced to stay aboard. The ship's passengers were refused entry into America and Canada as well, eventually forced to return to Europe. Seventy years later, Hannah's grandniece receives a package from her elderly aunt, who is finally ready to tell her family's story. Correa's novel is a timely reminder of the plight of refugees, and the real consequences of denying them aid, but the story itself is lukewarm a tragedy that never complicates or deviates from its expected trajectories. Hannah never stops pining for Leo, and she and her mother shun other Jewish people while simultaneously isolating themselves from Cuban life. There is also a noticeable lack of detail concerning Jewish culture. Though the novel covers an important piece of history, the story of the Rosenthals never quite comes together.
A New Perspective
I’ve read a lot of narratives of the Jewish people from this time and it amazes me how there is always more stories from new perspectives of the horror, and hatred that took place. I’d never heard of this historical event, and how other nations openly conspired to allow the Nazi’s to commit their horrendous acts of genocide. I finished the story wondering if Anna is a symbol of hope or if knowing her family’s history has just placed the curse on her shoulders? While Alma and Hannah’s life-long grief is realistic, the deaths of Louis and Gustov made me believe the family was cursed which takes the blame away from those who treated the Rosenthal’s unforgivingly.