Summer of My German Soldier is a book written by Bette Greene. It is a creative writing novel which explains the activities of daily life during the Second World War. The story is an example of a creative writing by Greene which gives the person reading it an idea on social issues in an American culture. Greene introduces young people to problems in the society and ways on how to handle them and become good people in the society.
The setting of the story is in Jenkinsville, Arkansas during World War II. It was around in the early 1940s. The author used the Second World War period to show Patty’s problems in balancing between following her heart and being faithful to her country. Patty was affected by isolation brought by the whites after the end of slavery. She was young and at that time, the whites never shared the same services with the blacks. Also, white children were not allowed to play with black children and they went in different schools. She was among the children who grew up in a bad environment whereby she never got parental love.
The main characters in Summer of My German Soldier are Patty Bergen and Frederick Anton Reiker. Patty was a 12 year old Jewish girl growing up during the Second World War. Patty lived in Arkansas with her parents who had a department store. Patty Bergen is shown as an intelligent, bright, curious and grown-up girl for her age. Patty longed for parental love from her parents. Frederick Anton Reiker was a prisoner of war who had runaway and was housed by Patty who hid her in her hideout from the authorities. Patty met Anton in their department store and decided to help him hide in a garage and they became good friends.
Another character in the novel was Ruth, a housekeeper who loved Patty so much and treated her like her own daughter. She gave Patty the support and love her parents never gave her. There was Sharon Bergen who was Patty’s younger sister who her parents loved so much. She is shown as pretty, attractive and clearly favored by her parents as they gave her more attention than Patty. This made Patty very jealous of her since her parents uncared for her and never gave her any attention. Harry Bergen and Pearl Bergen are Patty’s parents. They never cared for her. Her mother hurt her all the time and compared her looks with those of Sharon making Patty feel lower. Also, his father beat her all the time and this made her life difficult. There was Grandma Fried who was Patty’s grandmother. She took care of Patty’s needs like giving her money to buy books since her parents had ignored her. The minor characters in the novel both contributed to the lives of the main characters. My favorite character in Summer of My German Soldier was Frederick Anton Reiker. He was the most important person in Patty’s life because he respected her. He saw her as a wonderful and valuable person in contrast to how her parents saw her. Through his intelligence, he was able to help Patty get back her self esteem.
Summer of My German Soldier is a sad story of friendship, love, kindness and hardships. This novel has well developed characters with Patty and Anton as the main characters, Ruth, Sharon, Grandma Fried and Patty’s parents. Patty encounters many sufferings with her parents but meets Anton who changed her life. She desired for love from her parents and meeting the German soldier; she learns to follow her heart and becomes a valuable person. Patty meets family problems throughout the story even after Antony was taken from her hide out in the garage and only relied on the house keeper’s support. Patty is later tried for hiding Antony and sent to a reformatory school where only Ruth visits her and her parents neglect her. Through Ruth’s support, Patty regained her self confidence.
The climax of the story happens when the FBI interviews Patty about the man she had hidden. Patty is shown Anton’s picture and she tries making up a story to cover up everything. The reader can feel her emotions when she builds up a story to cover up her mistake. When she learns that Antony is dead, she jumps on the FBI agent with anger. In conclusion, Ruth leaves Patty at the reformatory school after making her realize that her parents were bad to her and she is a good person and she needs herself to reach her goals. The resolution of the main character’s problems is having confidence in herself and ignore what other people think about her.
Summer of My German Soldier is a powerful book. It is a real page turner full of surprises and suspense. The story is convincing and interesting since the characters look real and the reader can feel what they feel and think what they are thinking. The strength of the book is that the author was able to show how patty was able to regain her self confidence after going through many hardships in her life. One weakness about the book is about the ending, Patty could not be happy with Anton and yet that was her greatest desire, to be loved and be happy. The title of the book is suitable because it refers to Anton who was a German soldier who was able to change Patty’s life completely. This novel was intended for children aged 12 years and above as it teaches them on regaining their self-respect in case of any hardships as well learning to build their lives in spite of lack of support from their own parents.
I enjoyed reading the book because I have passion for history and wanted to know what people went through during the Second World War. My favorite part of the book was when Patty decided to hide Anton. She did it out of sympathy never knowing that he was to give her the love and companion she desired for. If I were the author, I would end the story with Patty’s dreams fulfilled and Anton alive since he helped build her self esteem. Anton was Patty’s inspiration, this can be seen through his words “ Even if you forget everything else I want you to always remember that you are a person of value, and you have a friend who loved you enough to give you his most valued possession” (Greene, 1999). I would really love to read another book from the Bette Greene because he is an insightful writer and I will learn a lot of things though his writings. In fact, I will continue reading the sequence.
Greene, B. (1999). Summer of My German Soldier. New York: Penguin Group.