4 out of 4 stars
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After reading War is Just a Word by I.J. Gysen, I am thoroughly amazed by the manner in which this story is told. It is a very poignant story of life in Germany during World War II. I have read many stories that involve this war and time period, but I can honestly say that I have not read one that brought forth the emotions that this one did. The writing style, though appearing to be simple at first, was actually incredible and produced a story that pulled at my heartstrings like no other book has done in a long time.
The story is told by Johannes and Ingeborg Gysen. Ingeborg is basically telling of her own experiences in World War II Germany. However, she tells her story through the characters of Ludwig and Marta who fell in love and married before the war, and their daughter Anna who was only a child during this terrifying war. Ludwig and Marta were Germans who, before the war, were under the belief that Adolf Hitler, their leader or Fuhrer, was great and powerful and would do wonderful things for their country. However, they were not prepared for the horror of World War II, which shortly followed the life of happiness and beauty that they had been living. Germany was pulled into war, and Ludwig was forced into fighting for his country, while Marta and Anna stayed behind and had to try to survive on their own during the awful air raids and other terrible experiences that followed.
More than anything, the story was about Anna and how, as an innocent child, she faced so much more than a child of that age should see or even understand. While much was also told of Marta's experiences and the horrors Ludwig endured during and after the war, Anna was truly the heart of the story, and her innocent outlook on the world was refreshing, as well as her love and attachment to her mother and father, or as she called them, Mutti and Pappa.
So many terrible experiences were told of. However, the second half of the book also brought bits of light to the story with tales of the country trying to return to some sort of normalcy after the war. It was obviously going to be a long road, but there were heartwarming encounters of American soldiers who came after the war to help and bring hope to this torn country. I enjoyed the tales of how the children looked up to the American soldiers and felt a sense of peace with them around.
It was heart wrenching to read about the fact that so many had looked up to Hitler, not realizing how ruthless he was. While the German soldiers are mostly looked at as enemies in this war, it is eye-opening when stories like these are told, and we see the human side of these individuals and how many of them were forced into this war, leaving behind families. We hear the stories of the heartless soldiers and the murderous acts they committed, and while some of them truly were like this, most of them were people trying to survive and protect their loved ones. It is staggering when seeing one event from various viewpoints.
I don't have anything negative to say about the writing of this book. The events were obviously hard to read about, but the manner in which the authors relayed the story was incredible and hard to put down or forget. This was an amazing, intense story that will stay with me.
I am rating the book 4 out of 4 stars. Any readers who are interested in historical stories, particularly World War II, should definitely add this book to their collection. It will keep you intrigued and you will feel very connected to the characters. It is undoubtedly worth the read.
War is Just a Word
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