The Knight, Death, and the Devil

Ella Leffland, Author William Morrow & Company $22.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-688-05836-4
Best known for her tender novel of a young girl's rite of passage, Rumors of Peace , Leffland ventures into remarkably different territory here with a massive reconstruction of the life of Nazi leader Hermann Goring. The subtitle, ``A Novel of a Life Corrupted by Evil,'' indicates Leffland's fascination with this scion of an aristocratic family, whose belief that Hitler could restore Germany to her former ``glory'' led to a gradual erosion of his ethical judgment and his transformation into a man capable of the most callous brutality. Implicitly asking the question, what turns a man into a monster? Leffland herself sometimes seems bewildered by the contradictions in Goring's psyche. A husband devoted to an invalid wife, an art collector of unerring good taste, a sentimental lover of animals, Goring began as a sincere if excessively romantic patriot whose defects of personality--egomania, self-serving delusions and brash opportunism--unbalanced his character and made him a virtual case history in the banality of evil. With a wealth of carefully researched, keenly observed detail, Leffland describes the genetic, environmental and historical influences that shaped Goring's life. She follows his career as a WW I air ace (his lifelong addiction to morphine was the result of battle wounds) and analyzes his role as the Fuhrer's brilliant advisor on both military and political strategy, commander of the Luftwaffe, creator of the Gestapo and of the first concentration camps. Leffland draws compelling portraits of the period's leading players and uses fictional characters to convey such events as the genocide of Europe's Jews. Although Goring remains essentially an enigmatic and unappealing character, the growth of his complicity in his country's moral depravity makes absorbing reading. The reader cannot help but be swept up in a narrative that escalates, as did WW II, to a final Gotterdammerung for the Nazi Reich. Major ad/promo; author tour. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 01/30/1990
Release date: 02/01/1990
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 72 pages - 978-0-14-014537-3
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