SHORTLISTED FOR THE BAILEYS PRIZE FOR WOMEN'S FICTION, 2014
SHORTLISTED FOR THE CHAMBERY'S FESTICAL DU PREMIER ROMAN, 2014
SHORTLISTED FOR THE BORD GAIS NEWCOMER CATEGORY 2014
LONGLISTED FOR THE IMPAC AWARD
LONGLISTED FOR THE WALTER SCOTT PRIZE
LONGLISTED FOR THE IMPAC DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD
A soldier on the Russian Front marries a photograph of a woman he has never met. Hundreds of miles away in Berlin, the woman marries a photograph of the soldier. It is a contract of business rather than love. When the newlywed strangers finally meet, however, passion blossoms and they begin to imagine a life together under the bright promise of Nazi Germany. But as the tide of war turns and Allied enemies come ever closer, the couple find themselves facing the terrible consequences of being ordinary people stained with their small share of an extraordinary guilt...
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Against the backdrop of WWII, Peter Faber and Katharina Spinell enter into a mutually beneficial arranged marriage. When Peter—a reluctant soldier who comes from a long line of open-minded small-town teachers—arrives in Berlin to meet his new bride, he’s drawn into a family that enthusiastically supports Nazism. Audrey Magee’s debut novel is a tragic love story between two believably flawed individuals grasping for normalcy during the darkest of times. The Undertaking paints a compelling picture of the unimaginable and desperate circumstances facing Germans in 1940, both at home and on the Eastern Front. Fantastic writing and memorable characters offset the bleakness—and give this vividly original tale its volcanic power.
This excellent debut novel opens on the "stinking hellhole" of the front lines early in WWII, where teacher-turned-Nazi soldier Peter Faber marries a photograph of Katharina. Meanwhile, in Berlin, Katharina marries a picture of Peter. Though the two have never met, their pact "ensured honeymoon leave for him and a widow's pension for her in the event of his death." Much to their mutual surprise, the 10 days they are granted to consummate their marriage become intensely passionate, providing both characters with a singular reason to live. Alternating chapters follow Peter on the battlefield and Katharina's harrowing life in Berlin. Occasional letters between the two reveal private hopes, memory, and torment that add to the already white-knuckle pace of the book. An intimate portrayal of Peter and his fellow soldiers facing defeat in Russia illustrated primarily through dialogue shows men at once monstrous and sympathetic, barbaric yet vulnerable. By simultaneously exposing the difficulties Katharina faces at home, Magee provides a heartfelt rendering of regular Germans who have been both complicit in and abused by the Third Reich's power.
A hard tale powerfully told.
This book had me captured from start to finish. The writing is such that it takes the reader through a range of emotions as you're drawn into the lives of the main characters. Compelling reading.
Strange and haunting, leaving behind a sadness you can't explain.