The Seduction Of Eva Volk, by C.D. Baker
[Note: This book was provided free of charge by the author in exchange for an honest review.]
In some ways, this novel has an unfortunate title for the unwary potential reader. Although the cover art itself correctly notes that the book is about Nazi Germany, those who just judge this book by the title may assume that this is the sort of book where there is a lot of sexuality. In reality, there is nothing glamorous about this book, as most of it is about the grim way in which people survive and endure the shame and essential grubbiness of existence dealing with such matters as rape, gossip, family problems, arrest and legal intimidation, the horrors of war and occupation, near death experiences. It is an intensely traumatic sort of play about a very difficult life. This book, rather than being a pornographic portrayal of a young woman seduced and abandoned, as one might imagine, it is the portrayal of a difficult life in difficult times that is immensely human, someone we can all relate to and may in essential ways resemble.
How you feel about this novel will depend in large part on how you feel about Miss Volk. The novel begins when she is 13 in 1929 and two momentous things happen that shape the course of her life. The first is being introduced into her grandfather’s smuggling business, which leads her into a life of deception and opposition to the laws of government, and the second is being stripped naked and nearly raped (her friend is raped and impregnated, giving up her baby (who is later sterilized)), which shatters her innocence and makes her the subject of gossip and searching for wholeness and intimacy that leads her into a lot of trouble. She spends her teenage years with her heart torn between two half-brothers, the sensitive and gentle poet Andreas and the charismatic bad-boy Wolf. Naturally, she chooses the dangerous one, who rapes her, and marries her after getting her pregnant (she miscarries, and later has a disabled son who is killed in the hospital as a result of Hitler’s eugenics programs), and who later becomes a war criminal in WWII whose brutality against civilians attracts negative attention from the Wehrmacht. Meanwhile, the inevitable defeat of Germany leads to the breakdown of the village she calls home, and only the love of a family member who abandoned the name Volk in the United States (which is a shame) saves her and her second husband from disaster, it being too late to save her father from a curious martyrdom. Eva Volk is portrayed as beautiful, somewhat indecisive, a bit sneaky, and filled with a lot of anger and longing. She is not a monster, though, and both as a young lady and as a symbol of a Germany that is caught up in Hitler’s evils while being somewhat complicit but yet not inhuman at all, she is a powerful symbol of the complicated nature of all of our lives.
This book appears to have been written with a few goals. The naming of Eva Volk suggests that she is both an individual, based on historical research of Christians caught between their faith and their devotion to order and law in Hitler’s Germany, as well as a symbol of the German volk as a whole . Likewise, this book is courageous in that it is filled with flawed characters that nonetheless win our empathy and also serve to remind us that we ourselves are morally complicit in the evils of our societies, much as we would like to avoid it. We are not so far removed from the shame of having lived in a wicked realm capable of unspeakable evil but not having done anything to arrest it. Eva’s father is a minister who is moderate but principled, but too cowardly to stand up to his wife and daughter, eventually losing his wife to her political ambitions after having put up with her drunkenness and gossiping tendencies. Eva herself is a bit of a tease, but not a bad girl, filled with anger at the shame she has endured, but finding her attempts for revenge and longing and fun only leading her further and further into troubles that mirror her nations.
Of great interest to readers, most of whom will be Americans (or other English speakers) is the way in which the novel’s characters thoughtfully and pointedly ask why they are to be blamed so much when other nations are also guilty of atrocities against humanity, whether one is dealing with British and American concentration camps, strategic bombing, and the American dispossession of Native Americans of their land . Many of the Germans in this novel thoughtfully wonder why they are held to be such monsters for doing similar activities as other nations . In facing the horrors of Nazi Germany, the reader is led to reflect on the evil that lies in the hearts of all of us, as well as the cowardice that often prevents us from standing up against evil. We stare into the face of the German people, and we see people not unlike ourselves, in monstrous circumstances. Would we ourselves behave any differently? The quotes before each chapter, full of grim truths as well as self-serving rhetoric, suggest we would not have been any better than Eva and her friends and family, and that ought to make us a lot more humble in the way in which we deal with others. For by the same standard we judge, we will also be judged.
 See, for example:
 Strategic bombing is one of the subjects discussed in one of my books, as is Indian removal: