D.E. Stevenson online book club is "The English Air." The story opens in 1938 coastal England, as the Braithwaite family is preparing for a visit from their German cousin, Franz von Heiden.
Franz has an ulterior motive for reconnecting with his late mother's British relatives: his father is a high-ranking official in Hitler's Nazi party, and has instructed his son to report to him on the thoughts/mindset and morale of the British people. Steeped in Nazi teachings and culture, Franz is convinced of the Fatherland's superiority -- but gradually, he warms to Britain and its people -- especially Wynne Braithwaite, the daughter of his mother's cousin -- and he begins to question the truthfulness of what he's been taught to believe. When Hitler invades Czechoslovakia in March 1939 -- after promising not to do so -- Franz is devastated. Ultimately, he is faced with a difficult choice.
I enjoyed this book a lot. "Home front" novels about the two world wars have always interested me, and "The English Air" is a rare "slice of life" book, covering the period from 1938 to early 1940 and published later that year. The Second World War was just getting under way; nobody knew then what the outcome would be. Understandably, it has a bit of a propaganda ring to it.
Stevenson's novels tend to be on the light side -- and while this is not a "serious" novel, it's certainly more serious than most Stevenson books tend to be, in both tone and subject matter. It's also unusual, in that Franz, the German, is the central character, and we see much of the story through his eyes.
While this book is nearly 80 years old, some of its themes remain relevant today (at times, uncomfortably so): the folly of blind devotion to a charismatic leader; the power of opening one's eyes and heart to new experiences, to different ideas and different ways of life. "There is too little kindness amongst us today," Franz's Tante Anna tells him, and that too rings true.
I rated this a solid four stars on Goodreads.
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This was book #21 that I've read so far in 2018, bringing me to 88% of my 2018 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 24 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 2 books ahead of schedule to meet my goal. :)