People Like Us

Written by Louise Fein
Review by Edward James

At one level this is a timeless story of star-crossed lovers.  A young couple defy the conventions of the adult world and are crushed by it. They risk everything and the outcome is inevitably tragic.  The narrator is the girl, aged 15 at the start of the romance, and she tells the story day-to-day, like a diary.

But this love story is set in 1930s Germany (Leipzig) and the lovers are an ‘Aryan’ girl and a Jewish boy, so it is also a story of racial and political hatred and Germany’s slide to catastrophe.  Fein bases her book partly on the experience of her father, who fled Nazi Germany in the 1930s, although she tells the story from the point of view of the Nazi girl.  The narrator is a Nazi because her father is a Nazi functionary, and a key theme is her gradual disillusionment with her parents’ ideology and her progressive involvement with the anti-Nazi resistance.

Enjoy this book for its heart-breaking romance, remember it for its political message.