I am thrilled to be part of Eco-Libris‘ 2010 Green Books Campaign, which highlights the publishing industry’s green efforts. Today, 200 bloggers will post reviews of eco-friendly books from 56 publishers.
“Before the war we were innocent. We could say we’ve travelled from innocence to experience. That would be to misunderstand everything. We’ve not become wiser. We’ve been damaged. Like the buildings.”
Having seen the buildings, which had taken so much time and so many craftsman to raise, it was difficult for George to disagree. Buildings are built in times of hope.
“Before the war, when we were young, we didn’t know much,” said Anna. “We were undeveloped. But we were whole. Now we’re not. Then, we made the choices that led to this. People think that evil is outside us. The reason it’s called evil is that it gets inside. One finds oneself doing things, choosing things.”
(from Therefore Choose, page 231)
Keith Oatley’s Therefore Choose is as much a love story as it is a story of war. It’s a coming-of-age novel about a British medical student, George, who befriends a German philosophy student, Werner, while at Cambridge. Werner introduces George to Anna, the editor of a small literary magazine, on a trip to Berlin, and they are drawn to one another immediately. When Anna asks George to stay in Berlin — either continuing with medical school or taking his writing more seriously — he is faced with a tough decision. After all, it’s 1936, and Hitler is in power and building up the military to the point where it becomes obvious that war is on the horizon. George is committed to his medical studies at Cambridge, even though he has no desire to be a doctor, so he returns to England. His relationships with Anna and Werner are strained, and when war breaks out, the three are changed forever.
Therefore Choose is a novel that sneaks up on you. There are a lot of philosophical discussions about the meeting of minds, literature, and war, and they say a lot about the characters. But it’s a quiet novel, with the tension building slowly until the end, when Oatley hits you hard in the gut.
George seems very reserved and indecisive, while Anna is firm and passionate in her decisions. Werner is full of German pride, and it makes him hard to like. George and Anna’s relationship is played out mainly in dialogue, and while I found them both interesting characters, I wasn’t able to feel the passion or the romance between them.
Therefore Choose is about choice on many levels — George’s choice to return to England instead of staying with Anna in Berlin, Anna’s choice to remain in a Germany under fire, and the choice of the German citizens to ignore the concentration camps and the atrocities committed by the Nazis. Oatley also touches upon the evil in humanity and how people can choose to do horrible things to one another in the context of war. I found these discussions among the characters to be fascinating, and Oatley does a wonderful job highlighting the different viewpoints — George, who fought against the Germans and saw the aftermath of the camps; Anna, a German woman in Berlin during the war; and Werner, a soldier fighting for the homeland he loves so much and having to face losing another war. It’s a novel that provides much food for thought and leaves you with a heaviness, but I highly recommend it for readers drawn to war novels that dig a little deeper in contemplating humanity.
To see what other books have been reviewed as part of the Green Books Campaign click here.
[I am taking a four-day weekend away from the computer beginning this afternoon, but I will check out your Green Books Campaign posts when I return!]
Disclosure: I received a copy of Therefore Choose from Goose Lane Editions for review purposes. I am an Amazon associate.
© 2010 Anna Horner of Diary of an Eccentric. All Rights Reserved. Please do not reproduce or republish content without permission.