4 out of 4 stars
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Unremembered Lives Revived by Mark Aitken is a biography based on the life of the author's grandfather named August Karl Petri. The book is divided into five parts and 20 chapters. In the first chapters, there is a detailed description of the protagonist's family and how his humble butcher father wanted him to study engineering to achieve a higher social status. At the end of his life, angered by the loss of family members in both wars, August begins to write the manuscript about his life that would be used later by his grandson.
Love life, professional successes, children, political facts of the time: everything is discussed in this work. The book would not attract much attention if it were not for the fact that August was a very successful electrical engineer and because he lived in Germany in the first 50 years of the 20th century.
The book is supposed to tell the "history of the electrification of Germany's Eastern provinces." Right, the author does that. What the general public (and I include myself here), however, will find fascinating in the book is the description of what happened in Germany between the two World Wars. That's my favorite aspect of the book by far.
Engels once said that he learned more from Balzac than from the professional historians, economists, and statisticians put together. The same applies here. What Engels learned about French society can be equally learned about 20th century Europeans if one decides to read Dr. Mark Aitken's book. Example:
When Russia caught Germany napping, and invaded East Prussia, their soldiers, many of whom were Poles, had not been averse to rape and pillage. When the slumbering Prussian Army turned the tables and chased the Russians back into Poland, it was the indigenous Poles who had to endure the next four years of armed conflict, in their own countryside, at the hands of the Germans. Little wonder that the Poles resented their former overlords and the occupying German Army.
That explains a lot about the hostility Polish and Germans felt for each other before World War II.
On the negative side, electrical engineer stuff can be annoying if you are not mentally equipped to understand everything. Fair enough, I know that one objective of the book is to "trace the history of the electrification of Germany's Eastern provinces during the first half of the 20th Century." In most chapters, the author spoke in a way that even a layperson would understand. In some parts of the book (especially chapters 10 and 11), however, Unremembered Lives Revived seems to be a technical book about electrical engineering. If I were the author, I would rewrite all these parts. That's what I disliked the most about this biography.
Overall, I would say that Unremembered Lives Revived deserves 4 out of 4 stars. The content of the book is pure gold because it shows the perception of many Germans about what happened in the first 50 years of the 20th century. It's a well-written book with virtually non-existent editorial issues (I found only four grammatical errors in a book with more than 600 pages). I had been looking for a book like this one for a long time, and I am delighted that I found it. The flaw mentioned in the paragraph above is not so significant. Therefore, there is no reason to take one star away. Neither profanity nor sexual content can be found in this biography. I would recommend it to all readers who are interested in the history of Germany.
Unremembered Lives Revived
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