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I was attracted to this short novel by the testimonial of Jim Crace, an author who I hold in high regard. It is an unusual novel. A fictional biography of a simple mountain man who leads an understated life in Germany, before and after World War II. The prose is unembellished, but observant of the natural surroundings encroached by progress.

Andreas Egger’s life was not easy, but the traumatic events are viewed retrospectively with little emotion. An adopted cripple who was not treated kindly lives through the Eastern front and post-war Soviet imprisonment, but these are but time markers. This existence is unremarked only because he chooses not to. He is insular, but for one relationship, and unskilled in that. The meek might not inherit the earth, but they do populate it.

He lives his life on his own terms, but he is not rebellious. He takes life as it comes and survives. His life is complete in the end. He is no different from most of us, which is what makes this novel compelling. Its progression is viewed in a rear-view mirror. A near death capstone.

This was an unexpected captivating read.

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