The touching and nuanced portrait of the rise and fall of Nazi Germany through the eyes of a resourceful German boy.
Ludwig is an odd and introverted child, growing up in Hitler’s Germany. While Ludwig’s father, Wilhelm, is a senior Nazi and a true believer, Ludwig escapes the unfolding catastrophe by withdrawing into nature and books. Eventually, when the Allied bombing campaign intensifies, Ludwig is sent to a Hitler Youth camp, where his oddness makes him a target for bullying.
As the war turns against Germany, the Hitler Youth camp becomes ever more severe and militaristic, and the atmosphere spirals towards chaos. After the Nazis abandon the camp, Ludwig returns home, and his father is presumed dead. With Ludwig’s mother descending into depression, the 11-year-old bears increasing responsibility for the survival of the family as starvation sets in under Russian occupation. Soon, it will be impossible to leave the Russian zone, so Ludwig decides that he must rally his despondent mother and lead her and his three younger siblings in an escape attempt to the west.
Based on a true story, The Willow Wren is a unique, touching exploration of extremism, resilience, and the triumph of the small.
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Bestselling author of The Accidental Veterinarian, Philipp Schott was born in Germany but grew up in Saskatoon. He now lives in Winnipeg where he practises veterinary medicine, writes, and shares an old house on the river with his wife, two teenagers, three cats, and a dog.
Published: March 2021
Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.
“Philipp Schott pulls off the considerable feat of creating empathy for his characters without ever resorting to easy excuses for their sometimes indefensible choices … a fine, nuanced storytelling achievement.” — Frederick Taylor, historian and bestselling author of Exorcising Hitler: The Occupation and Denazification of Germany
“The Willow Wren vividly describes the challenges of a sensitive boy with a Nazi father during the war years and after in Germany. This coming-of-age story will be of interest to anyone who wonders what everyday civilian life must have been like during those terrible times.” — Antanas Sileika, author, former director of the Humber School for Writers
“Vignettes reveal the stark realities of everyday life through a child’s eyes.” — Historical Novel Society
“Definitely a book to read for fans of historical fiction and the war years.” — Rosie Amber blog
“This beautifully written tale alternates between displays of sardonic humour and setting some truly poignant and heart-wrenching scenes. Morally complex and nuanced, this book is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand a difficult period in German history.” — Dr. Perry Biddiscombe, historian, author of The Last Nazis: SS Werewolf Guerrilla Resistance in Europe 1944–1947
“The Willow Wren is a novel to note … A blend of family memoirs and historical research, this is one of very few novels in English (Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief and Leslie Wilson’s young adult novel Last Train from Kummersdorf being a couple of exceptions) dealing with the often harrowing experiences of children on the losing side of the Second World War … The Willow Wren offers a compassionate reminder that there are human beings on either side of any conflict. Well done.” — Winnipeg Free Press
“A fantastic new perspective that’s rarely portrayed in literature or film of this era … This is a fabulous work of character-driven historical fiction.” — A Librarian and Her Books blog