The Living and The Lost is the second book by Ellen Feldman that I have read. Like the first one, Paris Never Leaves You, this book is also about survivor’s guilt after World War II. The Living and the Lost focuses on a part of history I knew very little about: the Allied Occupation of Berlin and the part that Jewish GI’s played in the denazification of post-war Germany. There are excellent but disturbing descriptions of the hedonic lifestyles of the multi-national allies in charge of Berlin. Feldman also teaches the readers about Camp Ritchie, a top-secret U.S. Military intelligence training base for foreign-speaking men, mostly Jewish.
Millie Mosbach and her younger brother, David, were able to escape Germany, just prior to World War II. Millie enrolled in Bryn Mawr and did very well. She was able to get a job at a magazine after graduation, but once the men returned, she lost her job. She accepted a post through the U.S. Army to work in her hometown of Berlin in late 1945 in the press and publishing clearance office. She quickly finds her brother, David, who is helping displaced persons. They move into a requisitioned flat together. While she knew her brother was in the military, Millie is unaware of David’s training at Camp Ritchie and doesn’t understand what he does at night when he disappears.
Millie is filled with demons. She feels guilty about her parents and younger sister not escaping to America. As a German Jew, she hates the German people who allowed Hitler to rise to power. She expresses her anger and frustration through a variety of self-destructive ways. Her brother is unable to help her deal with her feelings.
Since she was an emotional wreck, Millie is often cold and uncaring. Because of that, I never felt any real connection to her. I put the book down several times, and it took me over a week to finish it. I did enjoy the ending of the story when Millie stops being lost and is able to live again.
Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press for my advanced reader copy in exchange for an honest review.
3.5-stars rounded up to 4 since there are many interesting topics covered.