Many a reader is left with ambivalent feelings after reading the novel "the god of that summer" by ralf rothmann back. After all, the previous volume, translated into 25 languages, was "die in spring" (2015) about the dramas on the edge of the battlefields of the second world war a bestseller, so the expectations for this follow-up volume were perhaps too high.
"The god of that summer" describes the everyday life of a family and its environment in schleswig-holstein during the last weeks of the war in 1945 – a life full of delusion, denunciation and despair according to the motto "save yourself, who can". The story is told from the point of view of twelve-year-old luisa norff, who, after the bombing of her hometown of kiel, has fled with her parents and 19-year-old sister billie to the nearby estate of her brother-in-law vinzent, a high-ranking SS officer and husband of her older half-sister gudrun.
Everyday life on the estate is still going on as usual, away from the war. Only from her window luisa sees the burning city. While wandering through the forest, she recognizes in the distant barracks camp belittled forms – prisoners of war, enslaved for peat cutting; after the end of the war, a mass grave will be found there. Refugees from the east are housed in outbuildings, stables and barns on the estate.
The author, who was born in schleswig in 1953, describes the circumstances of the last weeks of the war in his home region in an impressive linguistic style. But the story seems a bit trite to older readers. Rothmann uses familiar cliches both in his characters and in situations such as the dance evening in the nazi brother-in-law's magnificent villa: officers and SS functionaries, facing their own downfall, show the loss of all morality. Scenes and the call "enjoy the war, peace will be fearful", a motto that has been running among nazi functionaries lately, are hackneyed.
In this respect, rothmann's novel does not offer much that is new. An interesting building block, however, is the fictional account of the writer bredelin merxheim in baroque german about the horrors of the three years war (1618-1648), which is interspersed in chapters by rothmann. Merxheim has a chapel built in the midst of the turmoil of war in order to give its despairing fellow men a foothold in their faith after being plundered, robbed, murdered and raped. Luisa norff also wants to find shelter in the convent and become a nun at the end of the years of horror: on her 13. On the occasion of her 70th birthday, the girl is convinced that after the murder of the british pilot, the execution of her brother-in-law, the suicide of her father, the disappearance of her sister and her rape by her brother-in-law, she has lived and experienced the worldly life in all its facets.