Cover Image: The Day My Grandfather Was a Hero

The Day My Grandfather Was a Hero

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March 1945, Lower Austria.  Cornelia (Nelli) Deinhardt is a thirteen-year-old girl, whose family, it seems, had been killed in an Allied air raid in October 1944. Nelli, who narrates the story in the first person, has seemingly lost much of her memory of her former family in the trauma of the bombing raid. She has been adopted by a farming family, and this brief novel consists of Nelli’s quirky observations on life around her and the daughters of the farm.  The dominant theme of course, is the approaching end of the war, as the Soviet Red Army advances eastwards, and aircraft bombing raids continue with all the potential existential horrors that this brings to life. A deserter appears which the family look after and then matters become even more difficult for the farm’s occupants when a retreating Wehrmacht unit arrive and commandeer the farm.
	The tenor of the story is quite like a fairy-tale – it has a Grimm-like quality to the narrative, with an element of Aesop’s’ fables too. Nelli and the farm’s residents realise that with the War going badly, no-one can be sure what lies ahead for them, and the reader as well, knows that advancing Soviet forces laid waste to everything in their path and the fate of Nelli and the farmer’s daughters would in all likelihood not be one to be envied. It is a brief story, but powerful, with Nelli the traumatised, damaged, narrator but who can still take a delight in nature as spring comes to the countryside and observe the quirks of human behaviour acting under intolerable pressures.
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An excellent novella, well written and engrossing.
The characters, the dialogue and the descriptions of the historical background are vivid and interesting.
It was an excellent read that I strongly recommend.
Many thanks to the publisher and Netgalley for this ARC, all opinions are mine.
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This novella by Paulus Hochgatterer and translated by Jamie Bulloch, is set in the final months of WW2 on a farm in Austria. 
Young Nelli, caught up in a bombing is staying with the farming family. She is trying to cope with her lack of memory and the story is beautifully told through what and who she sees around her. 
When Mikhail, a Russian slave worker appears with a rolled up painting, he is also taken in and given a new identity to keep him safe. What is the rolled up painting Mikhail is protecting so fiercely and how did he get it? 
When a group of soldiers arrive to commandeer the farm, loyalties force difficult decisions to be made. 
I loved reading about the descriptions of the natural world through Nelli's eyes and imagining the fate of the beautiful Expressionist painting.
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In October 1944, a thirteen year old girl arrives in a small farming community in Lower Austria, some distance from the main theatre of war. She remembers very lityle of how she got there. It seems she suffered a trauma from bombardment. One night a few months later, a young emaciated Russian appears. He's a deserter from forced labour in the heart.  The only thing he has with him is a canvas roll, which he guards like a hawk. Their burgeoning friendship is abruptly interrupted by the arrival of a group of Wehmach soldiers who commander the from.

This novella is told from Nelli's perspective.  The story is told over two days with some short stories inbetween. For such a short story, it's multilayered.  It's also told intricate detail. 

I would like to thank NetGalley, Quericus Books and the author Paulus Hochgatterer for my ARC in exchange for a honest review.
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"In October 1944, a thirteen-year-old girl arrives in a tiny farming community in Lower Austria, at some distance from the main theatre of war. She remembers very little about how she got there, it seems she has suffered trauma from bombardment. One night a few months later, a young, emaciated Russian appears, a deserter from forced labour in the east. He has nothing with him but a canvas roll, which he guards like a hawk. Their burgeoning friendship is abruptly interrupted by the arrival of a group of Wehrmacht soldiers in retreat, who commandeer the farm."

This book is very different to anything I would normally read. I really enjoyed it though. 

The story is told from the point of view of Nelli (real name Cornelia), she has suffered damage from the war and is staying at a farm. The book was divided into days but there are also short stories in-between that do no feature Nelli, but they were mentioned in the plot. 

I found this a really interesting book with so many layers, although it is very short, being on 111 pages, so much is present. I feel this is a book that you will need to read more than once to fully appreciate. there are so many small details that you won't pick up from just one read through.
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A sincere thank you to the publisher, author and Netgalley for providing me with an ebook copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review. 

This is not my usual genre, I’m more into crime/thriller books and even psychological thrillers too so I  am extremely pleased and grateful to them for opening up my mind to something totally different.
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This is a short but stunning story.  The translation (by Jamie Bulloch) is exquisitely handled because the writing is sharp with beautiful descriptions of rural life in Austria, farming, nature and landscape that come fully into focus.
Being in the mind of the girl known as Nelli when she is adopted, and the slow unravelling of her back story as Cordelia evoke immense images of care and concern.
War is war yet there is a line where "The farmer says the potatoes don't care whether it's wartime or not..." brings to the fore how small lives are continuing under enemy bombardment by whichever enemy you perceive from where you live.
The shocking scenes of prisoner captures, threats and the German troops staying on the farm where Nelli has stayed also bring into sharp relief the parallel tale of Mikhail Levyokin, the Russian prisoner of war who ends up on the farm with Nelli too. 
The dialogue is superb, contained and not sentimental and overall a fitting tribute perhaps to all children anywhere in conflicts of war who find themselves at the mercy of adults who as ever should no better yet reek death and despair on countless millions.
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