Monday, May 15, 2017

Fire and Steel Vol. IV: The Proud Shall Stumble - Gerald N. Lund

Summary: Battered down and humiliated on an international scale, post-World War I Germany is a nation on the brink of economic and social collapse. Work is scarce, food has become an extravagance, and money is practically worthless. The people have lost the pride and conviction that once carried them. But some see their suffering as a political opportunity to restore the Fatherland to its former glory--by any means necessary.

In the fourth volume of Gerald N. Lund's epic new series, the Eckhardt family is shaken to the core by Hans's involvement in an attempted coup in Bavaria that has devastating consequences. While Emily turns to her newfound faith for hope and comfort, the world takes little notice of the country's rapidly deteriorating situation or an ambitious political leader who is anything but defeated by his conviction for treason. (Summary and image from I was provided a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.)

Review: We left the two families of the Fire and Steel series during Hitler's meteoric rise to the top of the Bavarian political scene.  Considering the frustration boiling over throughout Germany after the Great War, the unbelievable inflation and economic trials that were hitting postwar Europe, and the uncertainty surrounding any governmental action, Bavaria is now a hotbed for revolution, and Hitler is ready to fill that role. His stormtroopers are mobilized, his plan is flawless, he is convinced that this movement will lead to the eventual takeover of Germany as a whole. But it doesn't work. No plan is perfect, and the coup fails because of ego. In the first few chapters, we find Hitler and his comrades--including Hans--arrested and tried for treason.

Things aren't much better with the Westlund family in Southern Utah. Economically they're prospering -- it is the Roaring 20s, after all. But while they worry about their German family and friends, they also worry about their children. Times are changing and change is scary, especially when what they see coming from Germany doesn't match the reports their friends are sending along. Is this prosperity going to last? Is there something looming?

This was a really interesting follow-up to book three. I always knew Hitler had spent time in prison for trying to overthrow the government, but it was always the footnote. Oh, and by the way, first attempt failed, so he went to prison and wrote Mein Kampf. It fascinated me to revisit the series of events that led to that prison stay, to experience them in more detail than we ever covered in history, and to see Lund's imaginings of how those events would have been viewed by citizens both in Germany and in the United States. While this wasn't as fast-paced or as jam-packed with historical references and events, it delved into the history and the ramifications of the few events it covers in astounding detail. It felt pressing, and urgent, and harrowing. I love how Lund can make me forget that I know how it ends.

Now, let's be honest. There were a few years in the 20s where nothing major either in America or Germany happened. Instead of trying to fill the time, I was surprised to just see a three-year jump. It shocked me a bit to finish one chapter and start another to find teenage characters now finishing school and engaged, but it moved the story forward in a way that would have otherwise detrimentally slowed it down. I get invested in these families, but I also get ridiculously bored when I'm bogged down with the minutia of their daily lives. My biggest draw to this series isn't the lives of the characters, it's how they've fit into history. I'm happy to say that the traction that Lund found in book three hasn't slackened. This is a great addition to the series, and I can NOT wait for the next installment!

Rating: Four stars

For the Sensitive Reader: Clean. Hitler's speeches are inflammatory, but it's Adolf Hitler. Of course they are.

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