Rothmann, Ralf. “To Die in Spring: A Novel”, Farrar, translated by Shaun Whiteside, Straus and Giroux, 2017.
A Young German Soldier and World War II
Walter Urban is a tough man and as a father he is difficult. He is a dark and silent man who enjoys alcohol and these make it hard for his son to get close to him. Walter is curious about his father’s experiences in World War II. His son gives him a gift of a blank notebook and asks his father to write down what he remembers from that time but Walter dies and left only a sketchy outline. This makes the younger man only more determined to find out what went on with his father who left him with the job of filling in the missing sections of history. Walter, it seems, and his outspoken friend seventeen-year-old outspoken friend, Friedrich Caroli, were training to become milkers on a dairy farm in northern Germany hen they were tricked into volunteering for the army during the spring of 1945. These were the last, and in many ways the worst, months of the war. War can drive anyone to madness and things got so bad that Friedrich deserted his post leaving Walter…
Beautifully written, we are taken into the mind of a German soldier who had to deal with the madness of the last months of the War. I was not sure that this was a book that I wanted to read until I began it and was pulled in by the wonderful details that author Ralf Rothmann provides. It many seem strange that a German soldier would write to beautifully but the whole idea of the book is quite novel in that we do not really hear much from the German soldiers who has to carry the war and its atrocities. I soon found myself turning pages are quickly as possible and stunned by what I read. In fact, I finished reading the book yesterday and cannot help thinking about it.