It was a mixture of intrigue, a friends fascination with the era and a chance cheap find that lead me to read this book – a proper book to, printed on paper and everything [seeing as so much this year has been kindled].
The premise, Gertrude “Trudi” was a Viennese Milliner and Designer with her own flourishing business in the heart of Vienna, as tensions mount she struggles to flea the imminent Nazi occupation, also getting her lover/husband out and her parents free, to England. She wrote the memoir of this era and self published in the mid 1980’s. It did not sell well, but as fascination and interest of the war years has grown a publisher has re-issued the book.
I had read similar books before, I remember a riveting one about a country doctor in Jersey doing the occupation, as well as films showing great courage and feats of endurance. So maybe I approached this will a little too much expectation. While the story is intelligently written, it shows that Trudi had few creative writing skills nor editorial leadership. Whilst it cannot be imagined in modern day the fear, the terror of being picked from the street and ordered to cleaning duty because something somewhere needed scrubbing, it is almost beyond comprehension to understand that at any second, day or not, the knock at the door could mean death. The enforced poverty and struggle to survive and the twisted corrupt nature of bureaucracy.
Sadly, this book does little to help. I found it lacked that tension and drama, there was no sense of doom or euphoric relief. There was no sense of time passing, no real drama, everything seemed under played. When they did all escape to London, there was but one mention of the hostility towards ‘foreigners’ which was prevalent in the City. Trudi was a gifted person and a strong business woman, she became a director of a London hat company; her husband Walter was instrumental in aircraft engineering, pillared by his employers as a hero – but I got tired of her almost whining sugary mothering of him. Perhaps if the format had been altered to more of a diary style it would have had more gravitas.
It is a shame as she came from an unusual perspective.