Carry Me

Peter Behrens. Pantheon, $28.95 (464p) ISBN 978-1-101-87049-5
Behrens (The Law of Dreams) grounds his bittersweet escape-from-the-Nazis love story in seascapes, landscapes, and cityscapes, showing how culture and geography shape lives and determine character. The novel consists of Billy Lange’s diary, along with assorted clippings and correspondence beginning in 1882, when Billy’s grandfather Heinrich (known as Captain Jack) registers his sea-born son Heinrich (Buck) as a German citizen who grows up to become the German-Jewish Baron von Weinbrenner’s racing skipper. Buck’s son—named Hermann but known as Billy—grows up on the Baron’s Isle of Wight retreat, his closest companion the Baron’s daughter, Karin. During World War I, Buck is arrested and interned, while Billy and his mother move first to London, then Ireland. After the war, the Baron’s patronage brings them to Germany. Karin enjoys Berlin nightlife, and Billy has unexpected prosperity working as a translator. But with Hitler on the rise, and the aging Baron unable to safeguard his family, employees, or possessions, Billy plans to escape with Karin. In scenes such as the Baron’s funeral and a zeppelin raid, Behrens avoids sentimentality, evoking instead a subtle emotional mix. Likewise, good guys providing protection from bad guys find it more challenging than in old-fashioned westerns, and triumph over tragedy proves more complicated than in traditional family sagas. Behrens thereby revitalizes the war epic, substituting grand panoramas with realistic settings and great acts of heroism with small yet powerful acts of compassion. (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 12/21/2015
Release date: 02/23/2016
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 464 pages - 978-1-101-91089-4
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