Summer of My German Soldier

Thoughts  by Bette Greene, Puffin Modern Classics 1973, 230 pages

Challenge: Neighborhood Book Club
Genre: Middle School Lit
Type/Source: Hardcover / Library

MOTIVATION for READING: Our club usually allows hosts to choose the book we read. Rarely are we offered a vote: this was the sole book suggested and thus the book we read. (Which I’m fine with, not saying I don’t like how we pick books. I’ve actually never been in a club that selects an entire year’s slate… Always “as we go.”)

WHAT’s it ABOUT: A 12 year old Jewish girl harbors a German POW during WWII.

WHAT’s GOOD/NOT so GOOD:  Apparently, it was a big hit years ago as a middle school read. I don’t know if it is still taught in schools but I thought the main character’s innocence wouldn’t hold up for current 12 yo’s interpretation. But I could be wrong. I found her naïve and annoying. But maybe that’s just me.

She’s smart but she can’t figure out how to shut up. But maybe that’s a good thing for a girl to not learn. We do often learn to shut up and take it and this book is a good reminder of why so many girls do: survival. She had some excellent cheerleaders in her corner so let’s hope she grew up to be a strong take-no-shit woman who lived life on her own terms. Her childhood sucked.

Just being in the same room with you, Mother, is like being feast for a thousand starving insects.

At first, I read too many reviews and was creeped out by the romance idea of a young girl with a 22 year old man. This is a friendship and not more. If I hadn’t been warned about ‘the kiss’, I might have missed it. I “thought too much” rather than read for enjoyment. As the story progressed (I admit I skipped around for the first third), I began to enjoy myself more.

It seems to me that a man who is incapable of humor is capable of cruelty.  

Cruelty is after all, cruelty, and the difference between the two men may have more to do with their degrees of power than their degrees of cruelty.

Trying to calculate different degrees of cruelty is a lot like trying to calculate the different degrees of death.

This is not a happy tale and for a coming of age, I’m not sure how much Patty wised up but I will assume she makes it out. I really do not want to read the sequel. I probably would have loved this book as a kid.

I can’t figure out how her grandparents were so lovely but her parents were despicable people…

Someone else wondered in a goodreads review, how Patty was treated for the first 5 years of her life before her adored perfect angel sister came along. Good question.

When people’s emotions are involved they don’t want to listen.

Tonight is book club, we’ll see what the discussion brings. Shall I take notes and report back? I think I shall!

RATING: Three slices of lemon meringue pie.

After we had eaten out hamburgers and French fried and drunk down our coffee, Mr. Grimes waved to the waitress, “What kind of pie you got?”

She gave her hair, which was the color of brown wrapping paper, a good scratching. “We’re all out of apple.” Nodding in the direction of the counter, she said, “Gave that feller the last piece. “

“What kind have you got left?” asked Mr. Grimes, not bothering to keep the irritation out of his voice.

“‘Bout the only thing I know we got is some sugar doughnuts left over from the morning and some lemon meringue pie.”




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16 thoughts on “Summer of My German Soldier

  1. OMG. I LOVED this book when I read it back when I was in middle school. Your review makes me think I missed some key things though – like the fact that the soldier was 22. It didn’t bother me at all back then, although I am creeped out by it now 30 years later. Now, realize it has been 30 years since I have read it, but I do remember thinking it was a sweet love story and I felt Patty was pretty impressive to harbor someone so dangerous and to see the good in him. I know without a doubt though that this is not a book that has aged well, thanks to the plethora of good MG and YA reads these days; however, when the pickings are slim, this was awesome.

    1. I don’t know why I so disliked the beginning – she just annoyed me. Believe you me, I was shot down at meeting tonight. I was told that “she only wanted love! Poor thing, she was only 12!!”

  2. Karen K.

    I remember loving this in middle school as well. Years later I found a sequel, in which she goes to Europe to try and find Anton’s family. Not nearly as good. And I’d forgotten about him kissing her! I can see her having a crush on him but that’s . . . icky.

  3. I wish people thought less about age differences between lovers or friends. It seems like another manifestation of our modern distaste for older people. The Baby Boomers didn’t want to age, so they saddled all of us with thinking it’s “icky,” especially if the aged still have desire.

    1. A 22 year old involved with a 12 year old for a “love story” brings THIS comment? Or Baby Boomer’s reaction to this scenario? I’m confused. Nowhere does this book make me think about the aged and desire. In fact, desire was not a factor in the story – only wanting love – as in appreciation and feeling valued NOT desired not sexual. I was lead to believe that something of a sexual issue would be an element and it wasn’t.
      Now you’ve made me think of Haruf’s Our Souls at Night. That is a “Baby Boomers not supposed to love” assumption book.

  4. What an interesting book club pick! I’ve never read this one. Do you guys read middle-grade or YA lit regularly, or was this a one-off? Did the person who chose it say why they wanted you all to read it?

    1. I am SO glad you asked this. Come to find out, the hostess had a friend suggest a book and this is what she *thought* the friend recommended! Or rather did and was wrong. I think that was it. The friend called back a few days later and said, “I gave you the wrong title!”
      And of course, someone asked, “What WAS the book supposed to be?” but our hostess already forgot. Too funny, right?

  5. Oh Care, I wish you could have seen my face when this post popped up in my feed reader. I had to read this book in school and I HATED it, my God I effing HATED it, and now that it’s all these years later, I can’t even remember why. But I still have the same instinctive rage/revulsion response.

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