“If you lost something that you’d once had- a limb, say, or one eye- people didn’t treat you like a freak: they remembered you the way you had been. But if you were born without arms or sight, you were a freak. If your body didn’t look like the bodies of others, you were a freak. And if you lived in a freak’s body long enough, though you didn’t feel like a freak inside- what could you do then to make sure your body wouldn’t turn all of you into a freak?”
It was a slow start. Boring. At first, I fought against laziness badly enough to get onto the succeeding pages. The years 1915- 1929 were the ‘dead’ parts for me. After that, I no longer have to struggle as I eventually find myself yearning to know more about this painting of Germany during and after Hitler’s invasion carefully drawn by Ursula Hegi.
I have hated the Zwerg, Trudi Montag. I have hated her because all she saw then were the negativities of being born that way and then turning into people’s stories in order to spin her own plan of revenge. I don’t like that. It’s not right. But as the story went on, I have come to like her. As Trudi understood and accepted the fact that her difference doesn’t have to torment her forever and totally separate her from the community, I have also come to understand that each people has their own struggles, possesses a dark side and needs to go through all these bad experiences to find the light.
The setting of the novel was perfect- a small town in Germany amidst war, amidst destruction with a myriad of personalities, each unique and has their own colorful history to share.
My personal favourite though, aside from the main character Trudi Montag which I must say has been the antagonist and protagonist in the story, is her father, Leo Montag.
Leo Montag who lost his wife lived for nearly three decades with his only daughter is so dear to me. He is the kind of father that one can easily admire and look up to. He was a martyr. He too, had a dark side but he did not allow that dark side to overpower his love for his wife and for their only child, Trudi. That is why his death in the story brought tears to my eyes. I remembered my father. I saw my father in Leo Montag. I saw my hero, the one who loved his family more than any man can do.
But I’m still happy. Even if Leo Montag died, at least he didn’t have to suffer so much pain, he didn’t have to lose his leg or any part of his body before the author finally say ‘time’s up’ for him. And I’m happy that he was given a heartwarming funeral and a lot of people were genuinely sorry for his death, for he deserves all that- he deserves all the attention, all the care and all the love.
Towards the end, I found myself asking, ‘Is that it? Is that really the last page?’ Max Rudnick hasn’t even come back. And Trudi hasn’t married yet. I was hoping to read the part where Trudi and Max will be reunited, get married and have kids. I was hoping that the last page would indicate that Trudi is finally with someone who will take care of her for good just like how she had taken care of her father and the child she so loved, Hana.
I guess all I’m trying to say is, we all deserve to be happy. Our dark sides comprise only a small part of our individuality. And we still have control on how we should live our lives. As for the society, well, that’s how the system is. It’s not easy to break the system, heck, it may even be impossible to minutely damage it. Prejudice will always be present. But we can always take comfort in the truth that there is goodness in every one of us, that there is compassion deep within all of us. And love..love is all around us.
Ursula Hegi’s masterpiece is indeed a must read. I am beyond satisfied with it. I am beyond inspired. This has been of my most unforgettable reading experience ever.