The Blind Side of the Heart

The Blind Side of the Heart✯ The Blind Side of the Heart Books ✴ Author Julia Franck – Oaklandjobs.co.uk Amid the chaos of civilians fleeing west in a provincial German railway station in Helene has brought her seven year old son Having survived with him through the horrors and deprivations of the war y Amid the chaos of Side of PDF/EPUB è civilians fleeing west in a provincial German railway station inHelene has brought her seven year old son Having survived with him through the horrors and deprivations of the war years, she abandons him on the station platform and never returnsThis is a tale of hope, loneliness and love, and of a life lived in terrible times It is a great family novel, a powerful portrayal of an era, and the story of a fascinating womanShortlisted for the The Blind eBook × Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. The author, German novelist Julia Franck born 1970 was 39 years old when this book, The Blind Side of the Heart was first published in German language Its milieu is Germany in between the two world wars and I could not help but be amazed how intricate Franck was able to weave her story considering that she was not born yet at that time It was the same awe that I had, almost a decade ago, while reading Birdsong A Novel of Love and War about French trench warfare when its author, Sebastian Fa The author, German novelist Julia Franck born 1970 was 39 years old when this book, The Blind Side of the Heart was first published in German language Its milieu is Germany in between the two world wars and I could not help but be amazed how intricate Franck was able to weave her story considering that she was not born yet at that time It was the same awe that I had, almost a decade ago, while reading Birdsong A Novel of Love and War about French trench warfare when its author, Sebastian Faulks born 1953 , did not even witness any of the two world wars For me, the ability to beautifully write on something that one has no first hand experience is a mark of a good novelist This is the story of Helene who is a mixed race half Aryan half Jew , and works as a nurse in Berlin during World War II She has to change his name to Alice and assume a different identity Her fiance forges her papers declaring that she is a pure Aryan descent so she can survive persecution during the Holocaust.There is nothing new about the storyline, you say Maybe for you but not for me I ve read many books, The Story of the Young Girl, Night, Fatelessness, A Man Search for Meaning and I Shall Bear Witness and they are all about the Holocaust victims and their experience during the war The Blind Side of the Heart stands on the other side the Germans, mixed or pure, who shoutedKill the JewsIt s just that being a mixed blood, Helene even tells her seven year old son, Peter to stop ridiculing his Jewish classmates The story is an eye opener for me because it never came to me, until while reading the book, that the world got transfixed with the Holocaust victims and did not bother appreciating what the good natured Germans thought, felt and did while Hitler s atrocities were going on It was also a big help for me that I read The Burden of Guilt A Short History of Germany, 1914 1945 by Hanna Vogt prior to this book so I exactly knew what exactly went on in this book s backdrop.I also appreciated the hook that Franck used at the start The first chapter tells about Alice, the mother, abandoning his child, 11 year old Peter, in a railway station The chapter closes with Peter washing himself after peeing while waiting for his mother overnight and not leaving his seat hoping that her mother would come back Then all the chapters except the last one are flashback of the mother s life who is called Helene So, while reading, I was waiting and hoping to encounter the names Peter and Alice It was towards the end when Helene became Alice and so I said, So this is the mother and then on the very last chapter, Peter, already a young man, reappeared I mean the hook trick worked for me because I waited and waited and because of Franck s skillful storytelling, there was no boring moment There are some philosophical musings, courtesy of Helene s doctor scholar fiance, Carl and husband wife power struggle, courtesy of Helene s husband Wilhelm but they are tackled by showing and not by telling. In other words, you have to deduce the themes by yourself and Franck s is not preachy in expressing her views on these themes In fact, you would not feel that the book is about racism except for the small incidents scattered in the main storyline like a Jewish boy mauled by soldiers for stealing food and Helene is a spectator instead of the main actor Very clever and fresh approach It does not leave you breathless, sad, and with a heavy heart like the usual Holocaust victim stories Rather, it is just a pure enjoyable engaging yet intelligent read In the original German version, so I ve been told, the title of this book is Die Mittagsfrau, or The Noonday Witch According to legend, the witch appears in the heat of day to spirit away children from their distracted parents Those who are able to engage the witch in a short conversation find that her witch like powers evaporate.In Julia Franck s brilliant English version translated by the very talented Anthea Bell , Helene gradually retreats into silence and passivity, losing her ability In the original German version, so I ve been told, the title of this book is Die Mittagsfrau, or The Noonday Witch According to legend, the witch appears in the heat of day to spirit away children from their distracted parents Those who are able to engage the witch in a short conversation find that her witch like powers evaporate.In Julia Franck s brilliant English version translated by the very talented Anthea Bell , Helene gradually retreats into silence and passivity, losing her ability to communicate effectively We meet her in the book s prologue as the mother of an eight year old boy, leading her son towards a packed train in the direction of Berlin Before the train arrives she tells him a white lie, abandoning him at a bench, never to return In the succeeding 400 pages, the reader gains a glimpse as to what drove Helene to this most unnatural act.Helene is born into a family that defines the word dysfunction Her charismatic, morphine addicted older sister Martha engages her in an incestuous relationship Her mentally unbalanced foreign i.e., Jewish mother is unable to connect with her two daughters, totally distancing from them when their father goes off to fight the Great War and becomes grievously injured When the two sisters gain the chance to flee to Berlin, they grab it and train as nurses, exposing them to the pain of their patients and also giving them ready access to drugs.Martha fits right into the debauchery and frantic partying of a decaying Berlin with her enlightened free thinking friend and physician lover, Leontine, but Helene is farcircumspect and sensitive Her one enduring love is a philosophy student named Carl who also feels deeply and tells her, The God principle is built on pain Only if pain were obliterated from the world could we speak of the death of God When he is gone from the scene, she is unable to protect herself from victimization, occurring time and time again, with sexual predators and the cruel man she eventually marries.As readers, we watch helplessly as Helene becomes increasingly detached, her heart becoming cold and numb So it is no surprise when she concludes of her son, she had nothingfor him, her words were all used up long ago, she had neither bread nor an hour s time for him, there was nothing of her left for the child As the book progresses, the reader is forced to adapt an omnipotent stance we know the consequence of some of the characters decisions and the genocide that will soon follow, but we are powerless to guide the characters through Julia Franck instructs through omission as much as she does the details When Helene calls Berlin to speak to Martha and gets no answer, we as readers are reasonably sure what has occurred But it is never confirmed As a result, as Helene goes numb, we begin to understand And we begin to gain some compassion for an act that virtually all mothers would consider unforgiveable.There is a menacing, ever shifting quality that pervades the book, becomeandpronounced as Hitler rises in power There is no black and white morality or easy outcomes there are simply all kinds of loss loss of one s sanity, loss of innocence, loss of love, loss of the natural order of things, loss of hope Thethe characters lose, thethey must abandon In many ways, we know they are already as good as gone Translated from the German by Anthea BellWinner of the German Book PrizeMost novels that explore the events of the Holocaust focus on the Before and After showing the events chronologically and the resulting impact However, The Blindness of the Heart takes a reverse approach and begins by revealing a disturbing After a young woman abandons her young son at a train station and disappears We see how they ve lived in horror for months, but his abandonment is still shocking Then the author Translated from the German by Anthea BellWinner of the German Book PrizeMost novels that explore the events of the Holocaust focus on the Before and After showing the events chronologically and the resulting impact However, The Blindness of the Heart takes a reverse approach and begins by revealing a disturbing After a young woman abandons her young son at a train station and disappears We see how they ve lived in horror for months, but his abandonment is still shocking Then the author, Julia Franck, takes us back in time to the early years of this young woman, and the events that lead up to a lost little boy, confused, hungry and alone.The mother is Helene, and her family is dysfunctional and damaged long before the Holocaust begins Her identity as a person is in question before her identity as a Jew becomes relevant As a nurse she helps care for her ailing father while trying to deal with her mentally ill mother She thinks she finds a future, but nearly everything she is close to is taken away She finds a way out of the impending doom by marrying a German who helps her with false papers that identify her as Anna, a German citizen, but their marriage yields nothing but the child She raises him alone while working long hours in the hospital, assisting German doctors in the maternity ward, as well as in the forced sterilization of some female patients Her son, Peter, is often left alone while she works, and while they remain together it s clear she s drifted away long before she leaves him literally.The book is incredibly painful A few times I put it down just to get away from the grief The author makes a tremendous gamble by having her lead character do something that appears unforgiveable right off the bat She is counting on the reader to ponder the back story and conditions of the woman s life and see if her decision made sense She shows how emotionally abandoned Helene had been, and the ugliness that fills her life The problem is, despite Helene s previous suffering, it s very difficult to get over the impact of the first few pages of the book The result is a tension that carries through the book and makes the narrative so compelling One factor I found fascinating was the details of the nurses and their struggles in Germany The endless shifts, multiple duties, and repellent activities in their wards were well detailed, and a part of Nazi history that I wasn t aware of The fact that Helene works with new mothers is a link emotionally with her own insane mother and her own flawed nurturing What motherhood means is an underlying theme, and the title makes you consider what kind of love is blind.Additionally, Franck creates an unforgettably tense scene in which the hungry mother and son go mushroom hunting, and find themselves in flight to escape hunters that are not after animal prey As she runs frantically, she appears to be hallucinating as she considers her escape route, Peter s whereabouts, and the various ingredients for different recipes to cook, all spinning through her head at once Her actions in the forest foreshadow what is to come.In a few places I found Helene Anna s character to be incredibly cold I understand that under her circumstances, self preservation required her to withdraw emotionally And very few aspects of her life were really under her control Yet there was an element of simple kindness she seemed to lack, or perhaps, it was all used up In any case, the glimpse we get of Peter s future shows how the cycle of pain is completed Everyone seems to love this book It s being compared with Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, but I don t see it The story was gripping, but I didn t like any of the characters, not even the little boy I couldn t care less about this woman and I was angry that she repeated her own mother s faults I did finish it because it was for my bookclub, but if it wasn t for that I wouldn t have finished it I really don t mind drama in a book, terrible things happen, but I at least want to sympathize wit Everyone seems to love this book It s being compared with Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary, but I don t see it The story was gripping, but I didn t like any of the characters, not even the little boy I couldn t care less about this woman and I was angry that she repeated her own mother s faults I did finish it because it was for my bookclub, but if it wasn t for that I wouldn t have finished it I really don t mind drama in a book, terrible things happen, but I at least want to sympathize with one character and there was just nothing to hold on to I understand that that is the attraction for a lot of people, but not for me A very depressing book Julia Franck s novel, DIE MITTAGSFRAU, published in English under the title Blindness of the Heart A Novel starts dramatically with a Prologue in which a young mother leaves her seven year old son at a remote railway station in eastern Germany and disappears The time is 1945, the war has ended and the two have to flee west ahead of Soviet troops taking over the city The author, captivated by her own father s childhood trauma, took the search for possible explanations for her grandmother s Julia Franck s novel, DIE MITTAGSFRAU, published in English under the title Blindness of the Heart A Novel starts dramatically with a Prologue in which a young mother leaves her seven year old son at a remote railway station in eastern Germany and disappears The time is 1945, the war has ended and the two have to flee west ahead of Soviet troops taking over the city The author, captivated by her own father s childhood trauma, took the search for possible explanations for her grandmother s behaviour, as a starting point for her book The resulting novel has turned into a fictional, wide ranging psychological portrait of a complex and emotionally shattered young woman, who lived through two world wars and, for her not less dramatic, the time in between Franck s novel is a thought provoking and, at times, unsettling and disturbing story of one person s deep love and loss, loneliness and rejection, responsibility and neglect, and the desperate, sometimes incomprehensible, will to survive In a way, the novel effectively provides the back story to the young mother and aims to clarify if not justify why a young mother abandons her beloved child after all they have been through together While primarily focusing on the portrayal of the young mother, Helene, and her difficult relationships to her family and close surroundings, the author, nevertheless, reaches beyond the private and individual sphere into the depiction of sections of a society in chaos and upheaval This applies especially to the Berlin s Golden Twenties Franck goes into some length in bringing to life the exuberant, careless and, with hindsight, totally naive behaviour of the bourgeois middle class Any political events or references to changing economic conditions, that give the reader a sense of passing time, are only hinted at obliquely In her description of individuals and scenarios, the author doesn t shy away from a certain amount of stereotyping For her, Helene remains the silent observer as she feels increasingly alienated and retreatsandinto herself Until she meets her great love, Carl, but even in this relationship one can detect certain clich s While their happiness takes on the shape of a fairytale, the reader knows full well, given the events recounted upfront in the Prologue that some drama will destroy whatever hope Helene had for a happier life Reading BLINDNESS OF THE HEART as a psychological portrait of one young woman, half Jewish, intelligent and beautiful, whose circumstances may not have been unique, but were by no means common, I could relate to and empathize with Franck s central character most of the time As an illustration of the total disintegration of sectors of German society in the twenties and thirties, in particular, I found the novel lacking in depth and specifics For a German reader, many place names, such as Bautzen, Stettin, Pirna where Selma is taken for treatment , etc have strong historical connotations Bautzen, where Helene grew up, is synonymous with brutal imprisonment, whether during the Nazi regime or later, until the Fall of the Berlin Wall Stettin Szczecin , where Helene lived until her flight to the West was, during the Third Reich, a centre for forced labour and prison transports into nearby concentration camps Pirna is known for its Sanatorium where thousands of inmates were murdered during the early 1940s However, Franck gives no indication as to the realities surrounding Helene, nor that her heroine was to any degree aware of such realities DIE MITTAGSFRAU is Julia Franck s fourth novel and winner of the German Book Prize 2007 Frank s language is somewhat unusual, not only has it a touch of the old fashioned stories from the Eastern regions of Germany, it is at times, and in contrast with the event described, poetic in its choice of words and expressions The complete absence of any punctuation in direct speech, is unusual, yet eventually, it makes the text flow and creates immediacy beyond speech It may be helpful to add is a comment on the German title Literally translated the word means midday woman or midday wife , which, however would not have any meaning However, the word describes a fable character out of the west Slavic tradition where it refers to an evil spirit like a midday witch She appears during the noon hour on the hot harvesting days and affects those out in the field They can go crazy or even die when approached by her The only remedy to protect oneself or heal is by talking to her spirit about the harvest throughout the hour of noon to one The question remains in the reader, whether Helene, the central character was touched by the witch and if so, whether she found a way to protect herself I read through some of the reviews for this book I m always amazed at what some readers think Books, clearly, touch us in different ways This book has been described as disturbing, haunting, and shocking It is all of those andWhat moved me about this book was the evolution of the character Helene as she changed in response to tragic events, how she moves from a bright, energetic, ambitious girl to a cold, distant, lonely, cruel, burdened mother The contrast between the girl s outlook I read through some of the reviews for this book I m always amazed at what some readers think Books, clearly, touch us in different ways This book has been described as disturbing, haunting, and shocking It is all of those andWhat moved me about this book was the evolution of the character Helene as she changed in response to tragic events, how she moves from a bright, energetic, ambitious girl to a cold, distant, lonely, cruel, burdened mother The contrast between the girl s outlook and the woman she becomes as a consequence of experiences, really outside her control, is brilliantly provocative Her loss of innocence is so subtle, creeping up on you slowly, so that you find yourself sympathetic to the cold, cruel even soulless mother she becomes You think if only her son knew what we knew about his mother, justifying the unforgivable cruelty But we mustn t lose ourselves to it perhaps like Germany did to horrors of Nazism , it remains unforgivable as Peter exhibits If this isn t enough, all the story unfolds during the colorful Weimar years and the ominous rise of National Socialism, sandwiched between WWI and the Soviet occupation following WWII It s hard not to see Helene s life as a metaphor for Germany and her people the ambition and vitality of the Weimer years, the felt pragmatic inevitability and naivete of Nazism, the complacent determinative acceptance of the war and the costs it brings, and the final loss of one s soul as one becomes an empty, defeated shell both literally and figuratively raped by one s conquerors Why One WritesYou often see reviewers praising a book with the words this is why one reads Here is a book that turns upon a different question why the author writes This is my second attempt at a review of it, and I think my reasons for making the change are important I would not want other readers to be led astray bys marketing as I was when I first read it, and expect a novel about moral degeneration in Germany during the interwar years, only to criticize the author for not succe Why One WritesYou often see reviewers praising a book with the words this is why one reads Here is a book that turns upon a different question why the author writes This is my second attempt at a review of it, and I think my reasons for making the change are important I would not want other readers to be led astray bys marketing as I was when I first read it, and expect a novel about moral degeneration in Germany during the interwar years, only to criticize the author for not succeeding Alerted by another reader, I have since read a German language interview in which the author reveals that her interest was not societal at all instead, she was telling the story of a single character, inspired by a connection that was intensely personal So now I am trying again Why an author writes makes all the difference.The book opens with a surely unforgivable act a mother leaves her young son at a railroad station promising to come back for him, but never does The year is 1945 The place is Stettin, now in Poland, but then on the eastern border of a defeated Germany overrun by the Russians The child witnesses his mother s forced surrender to the sex starved victors, but Franck s truly unforgettable image is of one of those soldiers, naked except for his helmet, hidden behind the door, legs drawn up, head in his hands, sitting on the floor sobbing The detail is striking precisely because it seems to contradict the brutality of the rest the tragedy of war is not merely for the vanquished.If the whole novel were as good as its prologue, it would be tremendous There is a real moral question here what can have happened for such a breakdown of values to occur Looking back now over my originalreview, since transported here, I see that I perhaps gavedetails than some readers would like hence the spoiler warning view spoiler I had looked for the answer on a national scale To quote the Publishers Weekly description Franck wrestles with a much broader question why did so many Germans appear blind to the horrors on their horizon But the author s connection is muchimmediate the abandoned boy was her own father Franck s book is an attempt to provide the answers that he himself was unable to give, even on his deathbed Having struggled as a writer myself to make sense of my own father s traumas, my heart goes out to her.We watch Helene W rsich, the remarkably sympathetic protagonist, growing from a small girl at the end of one war to a mother in her thirties at the end of another Franck paints her as an unusual case the highly intelligent child of a troubled family Her father returns home after spending years in a WW1 field hospital only to die horribly in his own bed Her mother, a non practicing Jew, refuses to speak to him and sinks deeper into the madness that had struck with his departure So Helene is brought up mostly by her elder sister Martha, whom she adores even though she is repeatedly abused in a kind of incest Precociously, Helene follows her sister into the nursing profession, a field of which the author writes brilliantly Then while still in her teens, she accompanies Martha to Berlin, moving in with a wealthy aunt, whose life seems to be an incessant round of parties.Here, I feel, the author rather loses her way, calling upon stereotypes rather than mining her own imagination Yes, 1920s Berlin was known for its permissiveness, but I cannot help feeling that the author places Martha in the middle of the world of lesbianism, promiscuity, and drugs merely to illustrate thenotorious aspects of the Zeitgeist Helene stays largely clear, but when she gets attached to a philosophy student, the son of wealthy Jewish parents, I feelconvinced by the ferment of contemporary intellectual ideas than by any gut sense of his reality as a lover But Helene is stunned when he dies, and it is in this numbness that the culminating events of the novel take place.We are now three quarters through the book, and Franck has still not got much closer to solving the mystery of her grandmother s transformation She is now writing against a background of well known history, and is content to leave it in the background Offstage, the laws against Jewish citizens begin to take effect We have to intuit Helene s growing alarm, but she herself mentions nothing until she receives a proposal of marriage Suddenly the action accelerates like a fairground ghost train, careening around in the darkness, its rider blind to her surroundings and therefore deprived of meaningful choices Almost without knowing it, Helene finds herself in a new life in a new city, in an intolerable personal situation which, though certainly fueled by the political climate, seems to have come out of nowhere The story is all too plausible, but the speed of the transformation almost broke the connection to what had gone before or even to the presumably callous mother that Helene would become Fortunately, her penultimate chapter finally does make that connection, revealing her desperation that gave rise to the events of the prologue, but also showing the motives for them in aunderstandable light hide spoiler If Franck was writing to gain some sympathy with her protagonist, she ultimately succeeds, but I am not convinced she can draw a connected line from beginning to end It seems to me that the nearer she comes to the final horror, theshe must rely on external circumstance rather than internal choice, and the faster she must move I also question whether it should be necessary to read an interview to understand the personal nature of the writing The prologue is so searing that there is no doubt as to its immediacy But there are long stretches in the middle where that sense of connection is lost Perhaps some horrors are so intrinsically inconceivable that they defeat even such an imaginative writer Very good book but it s so depressing that I don t think I could ever recommend it to someone. well i have finished it thats the most positive i can be about it i am afraid I found it slow and quite a cold read There is such a sense of loss and detachment that runs through the whole book All the characters portray a want need that they cant nor wont allow others to fill i just felt that although the timing of the story made it worse the characters just needed a huge kick to get them going and nothing ever did all in all i am glad its over Wilhelm interrupted her, tapping the boy on the back of the neck Don t cry,Peter And remember this, men are there to kill and women are there to heal their wounds Peter tilted his head back and looked up to his father Perhaps there was a smile But no, his father s gaze was serious.Chilling, disturbing, compelling, brutal, sensual, imaginative, unromantic, epic, saga all of these words describe The Blindness in the Heart This title was put on the longlist for Best Translated Book Award Wilhelm interrupted her, tapping the boy on the back of the neck Don t cry,Peter And remember this, men are there to kill and women are there to heal their wounds Peter tilted his head back and looked up to his father Perhaps there was a smile But no, his father s gaze was serious.Chilling, disturbing, compelling, brutal, sensual, imaginative, unromantic, epic, saga all of these words describe The Blindness in the Heart This title was put on the longlist for Best Translated Book Award and with good reason it is a novel in every sense of the word capturing the German Book Prize, listed as a finalist for The Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and selling over 800,000 copies in Germany alone In breadth, depth and execution, it is a historical novel spanning two World Wars and three generations in twentieth century Germany Having stated this, it may imply that the novel would contain an extensive cast of characters, each making a mark on their generation In actuality, it covers the life of Helene Wurisch with an intimate, unflinching eye that examines her experience of love from family to lovers in all its promise and cruelty The historical setting of Nazi Germany may seem to lend itself to an obvious melodramatic tension, but Franck keeps its presence as menacing shadow while chronicling the history itself only as it effects Helene As a novelist, Franck forgoes exploiting history but uses it simply as a one of the factors that effects the life of Helene and the decisions she makes The impact of this choices creates a harrowing tone that readslike a historical account of a woman who lived a difficult life without ever really understanding what love is than a romanticized saga of war.The novel opens and closes from the close third person point of view of Helene s young son, Peter It introduces to the reader the fact that Helene abandons her eight year old son at a train station How could a mother do this, especially in a time of war As horrible as this act is, Franck lays out an account of what leads Helene to make this decision Switching to the third person point of view of Helene, we come to understand her her choices and her history that lead her to the knowledge that she could never love Peter in the way that he needed to be loved Here we are dropped into the story of eight year old Helene and her childhood filled with obstacles Her father, with whom she has the most normal relationship, leaves the family to go off to war only to return years later, crippled and lifeless Her mother, Selma, is mentally unstable and sadistic, often berating Helene Once Helene s father leaves for war, Selma retreatsandinto her mental illness by sequestering herself in her bedroom which is filled with bird wings, fabrics, and all kinds of hills and mounds of objects, collections of items for purposes both certain and uncertain The only love Helene has left is that of her old sister, Martha Nine years Helene s senior, Martha is a beautiful nurse that Helene idolizes She reads Byron to Helene and, after recognizing Helene s unusual intelligence, teaches everything she learns through her nurse s training Helene and Martha share a bed and it is soon after we learn this that Franck introduces Martha as Helene s protector and perpetrator Because Helene experiences no love except for that of Martha, she willingly complies when Martha wantsfrom her Can you see under my skin too, little angel Do you know what s underneath the ribs here The live lies here Sisterly knowledge Remember that, you ll have to learn it all later And this is where the gall bladder is, right beside it, yes, there The word spleen was on Helene s lips, but she didn t want to say it, she just wanted to open her eyes, but Martha noticed and told her Keep your eyes closed Helene felt Martha take her hand ad guide it up next to the rib, and finally still higher, up to her breast Although she kept her eyes tightly closed and couldn t see, Helene noticed her own feelings and how hot her face was all of the sudden Martha was still guiding her hand, and Helene clearly felt the nipple and the firm, soft perfect curve of the breast Then down the valley below, where she felt a bone A little rib Martha didn t answer, and now her hand was climbing the other hill Helene peered through her lashes, but Martha s eyes weren t on her any , there were wandering aimlessly, blissfully, under her own half closed lids, and Helene saw Martha s lips opening slightly and moving Come here Martha s voice was husky with her other hand she drew Helene s head towards her and pressed her own mouth on Helene s.And so begins the complicated relationship between Helene and Martha Loyal to each other throughout their lives, the love they share asks too much but when their is nothing else, they surrender to each other Even though Martha abuses Helene, Helene never rebels or hates, she merely accepts how love is given to her Once their father returns, he requires Martha s full time care and Helene runs the family print shop business while their mother refuses to come down from her room to see her husband He eventually dies and Martha and Helene move to Berlin to board with their wealthy, libertine Aunt Fanny Aunt Fanny is in full swing of the twenties decadence, throwing wild parties, dating young men and developing a nasty cocaine habit Martha reunites with her lesbian married lover, Leontine, who is studying to become a doctor Helene is now in her late teens and pursuing her nursing degree She meets a young philosophy student, Carl, whom she falls in love with but is suddenly killed right before they are to be married Helene trudges on, working in a pharmacy and going to school A fewyears pass and Helene meets Wilhelm, a rich engineer work for the Third Reich who pursues her relentlessly Learning that she is a Jew, he changes her name to Alice and procures papers for her to prove that she is Aryan Once he learns that she is not a virgin, he disowns and humiliates her Helene becomes pregnant with Peter She continues to live with Wilhelm who spendsandweeks away from home, leaving Helene to support herself through her work at the hospital At first disowning the son, Wilhelm later comes home only to take him out for day excursions to bestow Peter with his fatherly wisdom Of course, Helene knows that with the rose of the Nazis, things will only get worse for her She leaves Peter in search of Martha who she fears has been taken to a concentration camp Incest, drug addiction, insanity, and the pervasive Nazism become the threads that knot Helene s life together barely allowing love to survive Helene is a character raised to be used and despite her strong will to survive, her intelligence, history and circumstance do not allow her to flourish This is the haunting reality of The Blindness of the Heart Franck s style is austere, stoic and at times, clinical, so that Helene becomes a witness to her own life, unable to fully engage in what life has to offer because from the beginning all it offered her was sorrow and hardship By the end, the reader empathizes with her choices even though it may be wrong For a novelist to sway a reader s judgment of the character they present is an admirable and challenging task Franck doesn t want us to feel sorry for Helene or to make excuses for her She only wants us to understand her The only troublesome weakness in this novel are is the time shifts It is basically a linear time structure But in each chapter, the reader becomes so ensconced in the Helene of that time when they start to read the next chapter they are not sure if time has passed or not, only to discover she is three years older This can disorient the reader a bit when trying to discern what events are happening with her at what age, but it is not so distracting that it detracts from the believability of Helene s character What fails this novel is the cover How unfortunate a choice This cover makes it resemble a romantic read, a book for women who like historical fiction In my mind, marketing malfunction This is a sinister read that doesn t shy away from taboo topics and as a matter of fact, addresses those topics in a way rarely done before and is a literary novel that deserves attention from all readers Yet, the cover panders to the female reader and in doing so, does a disservice to the novel itself Lesbianism, drugs, incest may not seem like new territory, but Franck does so without a hint of exploitation o sensationalism This is a serious novel with complex themes and messages The cover diminishes the substance that lies within As to the translation, the language is straightforward Anthea Bell is a revered translator with impressive works to her credit and this will add to her accomplishments But because Franck s style is direct, the translation might have been less challenging than other works contending for spots on the shortlist Ultimately, The Blindness of the Heart is a gripping psychological novel that explores a woman s search for freedom from restraints of history and family It imparts upon the reader a disturbing idea of the cost of that freedom and how truly precious it is

The Blind Side of the Heart ePUB ✓ The Blind  eBook
  • Paperback
  • 424 pages
  • The Blind Side of the Heart
  • Julia Franck
  • English
  • 10 May 2019
  • 0099524236