The Artist and the Soldier – Angelle Petta
Two young men come of age and fall in love, set against the backdrop of true events during World War II.
It’s 1938. Bastian Fisher and Max Amsel meet at an American-Nazi camp, Siegfried. Neither have any idea what to do with their blooming, confusing feelings for one another. Before they can begin to understand, the pair is yanked apart and forced in opposite directions.
Five years later, during the heart of World War II, Bastian’s American army platoon lands in Salerno, Italy. Max is in Nazi-occupied Rome where he has negotiated a plan to hire Jews on as ‘extras’ in a movie—an elaborate ruse to escape the Nazis. Brought together by circumstance and war, Bastian and Max find one another again in Rome.
Exploring the true stories of Camp Siegfried and the making of the film, La Porta del Cielo, The Artist and the Soldier is intense, fast moving, and sheds light on largely untouched stories in American and Italian history.
The Artist and the Soldier was right up my alley. A historical novel set in the WWII era featuring two young men who fell in love. And it started as idyllic. Max and Bastian met and became close in Camp Siegfied, a real life American-Nazi summer camp for young boys of Aryan descent. I think of it as idyllic even though they have to deal with bullies and other unpleasantness. This is the part where the two boys, in their relative innocence, felt drawn to each other though they don’t fully understand it yet.
The summer was interrupted by the pronouncement that Max’s father was death. This is followed by tedious scenes of dealing with grief and Max’s mentally ill mother which was made worse by Bastian’s monumental fuck up just right after the boys admit their feeling to each other. This effectively killed my enthusiasm for the book.
I understand this is a ME problem and maybe I’m so used to romance where HEAs are a given. Age-gap makes me cringe but I could shrug it off, abuse, dub-con or non-con might be pushing it but the ultimate turn off for me is cheating. And I couldn’t fathom what in the fucking hell made Bastian meekly follow that woman to her bedroom right after having sex with Max. Also, Bastian is possibly bisexual (he has been with girls) and if so, here we go with the cheating bi thing. Can we not with this trope, please?
And so with a heavy heart, I tried to read the rest of the story but like I said, the impetus is dead.
Objectively (because I need to take a step back from my own stupid biases), I love the premise. It combines two real historical events, the film La Porta del Cielo and the American-German camps. Stories about how Jews escape the Nazis are always fascinating and it always amazes me how resourceful and resilient people can be in order to survive. I think most readers would love this book. I recommend this for history buffs, especially those into WWII stories, and those who, unlike me, can move past Bastian’s mistake. Because deep in my heart, I know there’s more to the story than their love affair.
I received a copy of The Artist and the Soldier from
via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
No stars because it’s a ME issue.
Edit: Netgalley is asking for stars so I will give it 2 Stars – it’s a struggle to finish the damn book
Artist: The Drums
Nightingale – Aleksandr Voinov
In Nazi-occupied Paris, most Frenchmen tread warily, but gay nightclub singer Yves Lacroix puts himself in the spotlight with every performance. As a veteran of France’s doomed defense, a survivor of a prison camp, and a “degenerate,” he knows he’s a target. His comic stage persona disguises a shamed, angry heart and gut-wrenching fear for a sister embedded in the Resistance.
Yet Yves ascends the hierarchy of Parisian nightlife to become a star, attracting the attention—and the protection—of the Nazi Oberst Heinrich von Starck. To complicate matters further, young foot soldier Falk Harfner’s naïve adoration of Yves threatens everything he’s worked for. So does Aryan ideologue von Grimmstein, rival to von Starck, who sees something “a bit like a Jew” in Yves.
When an ill-chosen quip can mean torture at the hands of the Gestapo, being the acc;laimed Nightingale of Paris might cost Yves his music and his life.
Damn! I found myself sympathizing with (and rooting for) Yves and his Oberst and finding myself annoyed with Edith as a hassle and Falk as an unnecessary complication. Which is crazy because if this had been Edith’s story, I would be tsking at Yves and his stupid affairs and if Von Starck was not in the picture, I would be OK with Yves and Falk.
Stories really have a way of getting under your skin. Perspective is everything.
Coincidentally, the book model above is the same one as on Provoked, the last book I read in 2017.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
Soundtrack: L Comme Liaison
Artist: Dandies (feat. Pete Doherty)
Album: Illusion et Imparfait
Unhinge the Universe – Aleksandr Voinov & L.A. Witt
SS Lieutenant Hagen Friedrichs is the sole survivor of a party sent to retrieve his brother—and the highly sensitive information he’s carrying—from behind enemy lines. But his daring rescue attempt fails, and Hagen becomes the prisoner.
Allied command has ordered Captain John Nicholls to extract critical intelligence from their new Nazi POW. His secrets could turn the tide of the war, but are they real? John is determined to find out … and to shatter the prisoner who killed his lover during the attack on their tiny base. The deeper he digs, though, the more he realizes that the soldier under the SS uniform is just like him: a scared, exhausted young man who’s lost loved ones and just wants to go home.
As captor and captive form an unexpected bond, the lines quickly blur between enemy, friend, and lover. And as horrifying rumors spread from the front lines and American soldiers turn their sights on the SS for vengeance, John may be Hagen’s only hope for survival.
I’m a science major but for me, the most important thing I learned from my university is not quantum mechanics or any major science stuff but perspective. From whose perspective is a piece written? For whom it it written? This is what particularly attracts me to Aleksandr Voinov’s works set in WWII. Germans were the bad guys at that time as everybody knows so to have the point of view of Nazi soldiers from a German writer is definitely something. It is also an added bonus that Voinov is a great writer. I totally loved Witches of London – Eagles Shadow and Skybound was beautiful so I was excited to read Unhinge the Universe.
This is an enemies-to-lovers story revolving around Hagen an SS officer and John an American military captain who interrogates him. And the story is really just the two of them with barely any memorable secondary characters (Siegfried and Michael don’t count because they were just there to make these people feel something).
I was disappointed with Hagen. After what John was saying about the SS being the worst type of prisoner, I expected Hagen to be all subtle menace and mind games (ala Hans Landa) but heck, he squealed at the slightest provocation. Even after John felt the predator/prey relationship seemed reversed, I didn’t feel any danger. Ok, maybe I should give the guy a break, he had a rough day and also maybe that was the point, that he was not a monster but I couldn’t help feeling let down after all that build up. I was also looking forward to John being a terror of an interrogator but meh, he was too nice. He was stroking the prisoner’s head tenderly for crying out loud. Ok, this is my fault for approaching a book the wrong way and watching too many Tarantino movies.
There were some pretty tight, intense scenes in the book especially those involving razors. The hospital scene was pure fluff <3 But sometimes I wondered if they became attracted to each other only because they discovered they were both men who notice men. If they met at a different time and place, would they be together?
Overall, points for the history and backdrop but story-wise, the book didn’t really unhinge anything.
3 Stars – not exactly setting my world on fire but I liked it
Artist: The Flaming Lips
Album: Transmissions from a Satellite Heart
Skybound – Aleksandr Voinov
Germany, 1945. The Third Reich is on its knees as Allied forces bomb Berlin to break the last resistance. Yet on an airfield near Berlin, the battle is far from over for a young mechanic, Felix, who’s attached to a squadron of fighter pilots. He’s especially attached to fighter ace Baldur Vogt, a man he admires and secretly loves. But there’s no room for love at the end of the world, never mind in Nazi Germany.
When Baldur narrowly cheats death, Felix pulls him from his plane, and the pilot makes his riskiest move yet. He takes a few days’ leave to recover, and he takes Felix with him. Away from the pressures of the airfield, their bond deepens, and Baldur shows Felix the kind of brotherhood he’d only ever dreamed of before.
But there’s no escaping the war, and when they return, Baldur joins the fray again in the skies over Berlin. As the Allies close in on the airfield where Felix waits for his lover, Baldur must face the truth that he is no longer the only one in mortal danger.
Lots to love about this. WWII from the German POV, men in uniform, beautifully written story, pacing that didn’t feel rushed, historical authenticity, poetic imagery, the atmosphere of fire, smoke and steel plus a gripping and suspenseful climax. Even without the romance this is already a gem. The romance itself was full of longing and love. I love the subtly of actions and the tender moments, the sharing of cigarettes, the tinkering of the piano, the clinking of the safety belt. Never had I wished so hard for a story to have a happy ending.
4 Stars – minor quibbles but I loved it to bits