Review: The Auslander
by Paul Dowswell
Review by Angeliek Devine
Summary: When Peter's parents are killed, he is sent to an orphanage in Warsaw. Then German soldiers take him away to be measured and assessed. They decide that Peter is racially valuable. He is Volksdeutscher: of German blood. With his blond hair, blue eyes, and "acceptably proportioned head," he looks just like the boy on the Hitler-Jugend poster. Someone important will want to adopt Peter. They do. Professor Kaltenbach is very pleased to welcome such a fine Aryan specimen to his household. People will be envious. But Peter is not quite the specimen they think. He is forming his own ideas about what he is seeing, what he is told. Peter doesn't want to be a Nazi, and so he is going to take a very dangerous risk. The most dangerous risk he could possibly choose to take in Berlin in 1942.
Review: After reading Paul Dowswell's novel The Ausländer I must say that I am quite impressed, and was entirely immersed into the story by the first chapter. The horrors of WWII were impeccably depicted throughout the reading. I especially liked the concept of viewing the war from the perspective of the Germans' side and through the eyes of a teenager. Right off the bat Dowswell brings tragedies into Peter's life, setting the dim scene for the majority of the reading. This novel is not for the softhearted out there, it truly shows the cruelty of war, and the lives of those during this time period. It was interesting to imagine being a civilian in Berlin, Germany during the 1940's, always having to follow orders without a single complaint, and not being sure who you can trust, even within your own family. The book follows Peter through his days at school, perceiving the difficulties for children growing up in a Nazi society, having the pressures forced upon them by their peers as well as the law enforcements to be the perfect citizen, as well as being fully immersed in a world wide war.
As the story progresses, the brutality only grows more and more grim, hooking you in to want to read more. Not only was this book enthralling on an entertainment aspect, but it also gives the reader a good amount of historical background as well as incorporating the German language, connecting the reader more to the story.
During some chapters of the book I did feel that a lot of pages towards the middle seemed more like filler, in my opinion. Overall, however, The Ausländer is a captivating novel and does a beautiful job of combining the horrors of war, difficulties of fitting in, and the trouble of growing up all in one intense read.
If you enjoy reading historical fiction novels centered around WWII, I would most defiantly recommend this book to you.
I give this book an overall rating of 4 out of 5.