by Mary Louise Wells
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Pub Date 17 Apr 2023 | Archive Date 11 Apr 2023
The Book Whisperer, Posit Publishing
In Nazi Germany, a pious man makes a decision to protect his family, but at what cost?
Josef Haupt, once a staunch opponent of Hitler, now finds himself as a local Reich official, enabling the horror he once fought against. As the Jewish community is sent to their deaths and his sons are drafted to fight in the war, the evil of his choices ricochets against his family.
His eldest daughter, Margarete, watches as her once-peaceful town becomes an authoritarian outpost. She comes of age amidst the chaos of war while also fighting to keep her mother and sisters alive. When the war and the Soviet occupation decimate the family, Margarete is left to lead her mother and sisters out of their tragedies.
Good Town is a heart-wrenching tale of complicity and courage, told through the eyes of a father and daughter. Based on a true story, this gripping historical fiction will take you on a journey through one family's struggle to survive in the face of unimaginable evil.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 39 members
“Good Town” by Mary Louise Wells is a historical fiction book based upon a true story. Ms. Wells notes in the Prologue that her mother had written about her life in Germany during WWII, which serves as the basis of this story. “Good Town” is very obviously a loving tribute to that family. It took a while for this book to get rolling and the pacing was a bit uneven throughout the book. A lot happens in this book, at times necessitating me using the internet to check names, places, and historic battles. This isn’t a happy story, but it’s a hopeful story. Keeping one’s faith during a war, especially with the Nazis around you, must have been difficult - and that this family kept their faith and kept their faith in each other is rather amazing
Josef Haupt is a respected member of a town in East Prussia, a friend to all, a successful farmer, husband to Dorothea and eight children. Then the Nazis told him that he must help them with the other farmers or his family would suffer the consequences.
Based on her mother's memoir and a journal of her grandfather, Good Town, by Mary Louise Wells, chronicles the battles of conscience, and the struggles of the Haunt family during World War II through 1950. Sons must fight for the Nazi war machine. The family has to flee their family farm to escape the Russians as they push westward. May we never forget what people went through then, so history doesn't repeat itself.
I was able to read an ARC on #NetGalley.
A gripping tale of a large family trying to survive WWII intact. The family goes from being well-off land baron farmers to being homeless, broken and displaced. You see how people can be made to do things that they normally wouldn't do, even things against their moral code, when their freedom is taken from them in small steps. With each threat and each submission, they lose a piece of themselves. They love their homeland but do not love the Nazi ethic. There is no such thing as a happy ending in any tale of this war, but they try to pull together through all of their trials. This story tells a bit of the Russian role in the war and the atrocities perpetrated against the Germans by unrestrained Russian soldiers. A heartbreaking tale that follows a fictional family through the nightmare of historical events- well written with authentic angst and emotion.
I have read many book about Nazi Germany and World War II. I think this is the first one that made me realize that the end of the war did not guarantee a happy ending for all the innocent who had suffered under Hitler. The Haupt family are prosperous and well respected in Gutestadt, which was part of East Prussia. In addition to the war taking many of the family, the peace treaties take away their farm when East Prussia ceases to exist. Well written and researched, Good Town by Mary Louise Wells is well worth reading. It is an eye-opener!
An amazing heart stirring story of one family trying to survive a war and a regime they opposed with dignity and the aftermath as victims. Unlike other WWII stories, there isn’t romance against the odds or yet another story of survival in Auschwitz, but there is heart enough to make this one of the best. I hope there will be more stories about the Haupt family and how they put their lives back together.
Stories from WWII usually involve someone on the winning side or victims of the atrocious acts that were committed. I have never read one from the view point of a German. This story takes the reader to Germany under Nazi rule. The Haupt family are devout Catholics who are proud of their German heritage but do not agree with the ruling Nazi party. It is easy to forget that not all Germans supported Hitler and his desire for world domination while killing off so many people. The reminder comes from this story. I think that the fact this is based on the author's own family history makes it all the more real to me as a reader.
The author opens the door to a world that we have seen only from one side of the glass. We are taken to a prospering family farm where life seems nearly perfect until war pulls the family apart and reveals horrors that one can never forget. Sons are sent to the front. Old men are conscripted to dig trenches. Women are beaten and raped. Hope and faith are something one either clings to or completely gives up on.
To say this story is emotional is an understatement. I found myself anxious to find out what happened next. Then the tears would flow as I felt the characters' pain or joy as they pushed forward to an uncertain future. When I get emotional with a story, it has been written with a very powerful voice.
The sign of a good book is when you finish reading it the story stays with you. I can't stop thinking of the Germans who did not want to exterminate the Jews or treat anyone badly. They did exist. I want to know more about them. I want to read up on that viewpoint. Good Town got me thinking.
If you like historical fiction, you have to give this book a try. I think you'll find it one that will change you.
I chose to read this book, because for once the story of WW2, was told from the point of view, of a German family. I have read a lot of war fiction, and non fiction by Jewish, English, and American people, so this was a new, and interesting perspective for me.
I found this book to be, both informative, and very well written.
The main character Margarete Haupt, was a strong young woman, who despite all the odds both against her, and her family, was determined to survive.
I enjoyed learning of her family, and their thoughts on life, and her country before, during and after the terrible war that took many lives. It made it seem even more realistic, having been based on a true story.
Thank you so much to the author, and the publisher, for allowing me to read this advanced copy.
I received a free e-arc of this book through Netgalley.
I read a lot of WWII historical fiction, but this one still stands out because it focuses on a family in East Prussia who try to ignore the Nazis and stay apart, but are pulled in to survive. The suffering of Germans who weren't interested in taking over the world is a different vantage point worth reading.
Good Town relates the story of the Haupt family living in a small farming community in East Prussia (Germany) through the years 1937-1950. The Haupts are “good” Germans who are Catholic and live peacefully and conduct business with their neighbors who are Jewish and Protestant. Things begin to change when the SS arrive and demand that Haupt must serve the Party. Neighbors start to disappear and one by one his four sons are conscripted to serve Hitler’s army,
The reader is easily swept along by the excellent prose and can empathize with the family throughout their travails. Without giving away what occurs, I can say the atrocities of the war on the Easter front are well depicted as are the horrors of the interment camps. Several incidents are portrayed with a tremendous amount of poignancy.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this novel to any reader and thank Mary Louise Wells, the author, and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book prior to publication.
Good Town by Mary Louise Wells
In 1936 Josef and Dorothea Haupt lived in East Prussia with their eight children in the town of Guttstadt translated Good Town. The Haupt’s are an aristocratic family who own a large farm. With the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party they have tried to ignore all the changes that are coming in to their town and have tried to stay true to their Catholic faith but then one morning Josef sees one of the town elders who was Jewish sweeping the sidewalk he could not help but speak to him unfortunately for Josef overnight it has become a criminal offence to acknowledge a jew and now Josef faces criminal charges and is threatened to be sent to a labour camp or he can work for the Nazis and become the Nazi government’s local agricultural leader or an Ortsbauernfuhrer.
Good Town is a heart wrenching story of how the Haupt family is torn apart be WWII and what they must do to survive. I am not ashamed to admit that I found the story very touching and had to reach for the tissues on many occasions especially in the last quarter of the book.
Mary Louise Wells is a wonderful author who brings all the characters to life, so much that you feel you are there with them in the book. I can not wait to read Mary Louise Wells next books.
I would like to thank Net Galley and The Book Whisperer for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review
“I don’t think I’m very brave”, she admitted. “You may not feel it, but courage comes simply from taking another step forward-for yourself and for others-when times are difficult. Bravery is simply the choice to act.” Margarete comes of age in The Good Town, a riveting WWII novel that follows a German family as they try to survive the changing landscape of German politics. The Haupt family each have their own way of dealing with the Reich encroaching and then taking over their small town in East Prussia. The patriarch is complicit just trying keep his family safe and fed? The matriarch survives by carrying on as if nothing has changed. She keeps the family farm running as it always has. Making sure her children are growing up knowing their social station in life. 4 sons go off to war. 4 daughters witness atrocities no one should ever see. Family bonds are tested and stretched, but not broken. Germans that did not follow or buy in to the Nazis regime had nowhere to turn. They found themselves being prosecuted by their own countrymen as well as those that were the enemy of the Nazis. A perspective of WWII that we don’t often see.
Told from the point of view of a well-respected farmer and his family, Good Town brings to life the struggle of German citizens who love their homeland, but do not prescribe to the Nazi rhetoric. The characters are real and authentic. I enjoyed the writing and storytelling.
A good book about the struggles of a family during WWII and after. We’ll write. Unbelievable what this family went through and how they triumphed and years.
Good Town is historical fiction, which recounts the story of the Haupt family, a family that was displaced from eastern Prussia during WWII. Those living in Prussia during WWII were impressed into the German war machine, and while some of them were happy and thrived there, others resisted as best they could. The Haupt family was one of the latter - but despite their best intentions, the Nazis overtook their lives. Through the first half of the war, they were able to survive more or less unchanged, but as the war ground on, and after, they were forced to flee. Once they became refugees, their former life was gone forever.
This is a historically-accurate novel, and clearly describes the experiences of a fairly typical upper-middle class family of the time - a family that loses everything, including some family members, over the course of the war. While not quite as horrifying as the experiences of those sent to concentration camps, it is nonetheless a story of the horrible way the Nazis treated not only those they tried to exterminate, but their own citizens. Due to mature themes and some explicit scenes, this novel is recommended for readers high school age and older.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
A stark look at a German family’s experiences in East Prussia before, during, and after WWII.
Wells does a good job of describing the Haupt family, their values and what kind of people they were.
Resistant against the shadow of the Reich, eventually the family has no choice but to comply with autocratic demands.
Their losses were plentiful and acute,which make them like most Germans, but different because this is their story.
The author doesn’t hold back so expect graphic descriptions.
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