Guest bloggers visit my website twice a month on Tuesday and Thursday. If you would like to be part of this, feel free to check out the Be A Guest Blogger page.
This week’s guest post is brought to you by Phyllis Edgerly Ring. Thanks, Phyllis!
A year ago this week, I was in Germany when my novel, The Munich Girl, published last November. In the eight years I’d spent following this story’s trail, I never once imagined that life would bring me back there for such a personally significant landmark. This book’s pathway has been filled with things I’d never have expected.
When I was a military brat in Europe in the 1960s, my first friends were German families. After I married another brat who’d also spent part of his childhood in Germany, we began returning there as often as we could. I realized that if I wanted to understand this culture I love so much, I needed to understand more about Germany’s experience during the war.
Never could I have imagined how quickly that intention would take me straight to Hitler’s living room. Within days, I received a copy of British writer Angela Lambert’s biography of Eva Braun. Then a combination of entirely unexpected circumstances led to my finding the portrait of Braun that began unwinding the sequence of events in The Munich Girl.
A major turning point in the story’s development occurred when I discovered, while researching the war crimes Trials at Nuremberg, that an action of Eva Braun’s in the last week of her life saved the lives of about 35,000 Allied prisoners of war. Two members of my mother’s family were among them.
This led me to new levels in the book’s unfolding story, spurred by the idea that the reality of situations is always deeper and more complex than things may appear on the surface. And also, that the power of real relationships, ones based in genuine love and trust, can — no matter the circumstances around them — have beneficial effects in many lives, even generations later.
The question people asked me at the outset is the same one they still ask: “Why Eva Braun?” The story’s goal has never been to try to exonerate or “redeem” her, or how she is perceived. She’s an excellent motif for examining how people, especially women, suppress our own lives, and what forces and factors lead us to do that.
The most unexpected gift of all in my experience with this book was the discovery that rather than “making up” a story, I was invited to enter a process by which one revealed itself to me, and revealed so much more about my own inner and outer life, as well. Much like the book’s protagonist, Anna, I repeatedly experience the many kinds of homecomings, spiritual and material, that life brings us to.
The story of The Munich Girl is about many things, including, of course, Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun, and history from the time of the war in Germany. It is also about the power of friendship, and the importance of our often ignored and overlooked inner life, without which our world careens increasingly out-of-balance.
Most of all, perhaps, it is a story about outlasting that unbalanced chaos and confusion by valuing, and believing in, the ultimate triumph of all of the good that we are willing to contribute to building, together.
As one character in my novel observes: “Sometimes, we must outlast even what seems worse than we have imagined, because we believe in the things that are good. So that there can be good things again.”
Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of the Legacies That Outlast War at:
Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third-Reich family history is entwined with her own.
As Anna learns more about the “ordinary” Munich girl who became a tyrant’s lover, and her mother’s confidante, she retraces a friendship that began when two lonely teenagers forged a bond that endured through the war, though the men they loved had opposing ambitions. Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged as she realizes that she has suppressed her own life in much the way Hitler’s mistress did. Ultimately she and Hannes discover how the love in one friendship echoes on in two families until it unites them at last.