Sunday, October 30, 2016
Irmina by Barbara Yelin
When we first meet Irmina, she is bold and brave. She stands up to men at parties, falls in love with a black man, and seems to recognize and stand up to the strains of misogyny and racism surrounding her; after her sudden return to Germany that force seems to slowly seep out of her. She initially questions the promises being made by the Nazis, but her resolve is slowly broken, and we are supposed to see how a person, even a fundamentally good person, can break under the weight of a totalitarian regime. My one struggle with the book was how hard that transition was to believe. Because we don't have much internality (just snippets of letters and flashes of facial expression), we are left to intuit what's happening to Irmina.
The book ends with a reunion, one that forces us to consider all the paths untravelled. There are small flashes of hope and redemption, but despite it's aesthetic beauty, there is a deep, abiding sadness throughout. It's not hard to read like other WW2 narratives--it doesn't focus on the massive horrors of the Holocaust or the sweeping violence of war--but the smallness of the scope makes it differently devastating.
Posted by Chloe Pinkerton at 2:05 PM