After a preface that illustrates the weight and passage of time, an aged Achim finds an old photo album and diary in a cobwebbed attic. Margenau dives into the past, splitting the novel between first-person chapters narrated by Achim, who feels great urgency to share his story as one of the few people left to tell it, and third-person accounts of Liesel, Paul, and Horst. Achim focuses on the war and its impact on himself and the people closest to him: “Almost all those stern, smiling, relaxed people were gone,” he writes, “their stories untold, their eventful lives unrecalled. And so would be my stories, soon.”
From there, Margenau’s work is a warm remembrance of lessons Achim learned from his father (“Once you understand the good and bad things that exist in your world, it is easier to make decisions”), along with the trials, hardships and blessings faced by the others in the tumultuous war years. Whether the focus is on the front lines, the skies, a POW camp, or somewhere back home, War Story offers uplifting testament to the human capacity to carry on when the need is great, no matter how much it hurts.
Takeaway: This warm account of young people in the second World War will please lovers of character-rich historical fiction.
Great for fans of:James Holland’s Twenty One: Coming of Age in the Second World War, Susan Meissner’s The Last Year of the War.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: B+