The Munich Girl by Phyllis Edgerly Ring *Guest Post*
I'd like to introduce you to Phyllis Edgerly Ring who has recently published her novel, The Munich Girl.
Phyllis Edgerly Ring lives in New England and returns as often as she can to her childhood home in Germany. She has studied plant sciences and ecology, worked as a nurse, been a magazine writer and editor, taught English to kindergartners in China, and frequently serves as workshop facilitator and coach for others’ writing projects. Her published work includes fiction and inspirational nonfiction.
My parents’ British-American marriage was made during WWII, so war stories were a staple of family dinner conversation.
Never could I have imagined how quickly that intention would take me straight to Hitler’s living room. Within the week, I received a copy of British writer Angela Lambert’s biography of Eva Braun. Then a combination of entirely unexpected circumstances led to my owning the portrait of Braun that began to unwind the sequence of events in my novel, The Munich Girl.
A major turning point in the story’s development occurred when I discovered, while researching the Trials at Nuremberg, that an action of Eva Braun's in the last week of her life saved the lives of about 35,000 Allied prisoners of war. Two members of my mother's family were among them.
This led me to new levels in the unfolding book's story, spurred by the idea that the reality of situations is always deeper and more complex than things may appear on the surface. And also, the power of real relationships, no matter the circumstances around them, can have beneficial effects in many lives, even generations later.
The question people asked me at the outset is the same one they still ask: “Why Eva Braun?” The story’s goal has never been to try to exonerate or “redeem” her, or how she is perceived. She’s an excellent motif for examining how people, especially women, suppress our own lives, and what forces and factors lead us to do that.
The story’s timeline alternates between the period of the war and 50 years after the end of it. The latter represents an important juncture for humanity, I feel, one that invites us to look again, and more deeply, at what remains unrecognized and unresolved, and perhaps overlooked, in that immense, human-initiated catastrophe. The year 1995 is also already “historical” in fiction’s terms, because it’s from about that point that technology of the virtual world began asserting itself, rendering a very different human experience in our world today. To the extent that this material advancement isn't matched by the development of inner-life values and compassionate, united perspective, I think we continue to experience havoc and suffering.
Anna Dahlberg grew up eating dinner under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. Fifty years after the war, she discovers what he never did—that her mother and Hitler’s mistress were friends. The secret surfaces with a mysterious monogrammed handkerchief, and a man, Hannes Ritter, whose Third-Reich family history is entwined with her own.
As Anna learns more about the “ordinary” Munich girl who became a tyrant’s lover, and her mother’s confidante, she retraces a friendship that began when two lonely teenagers forged a bond that endured through the war, though the men they loved had opposing ambitions. Anna finds her every belief about right and wrong challenged as she realizes that she has suppressed her own life in much the way Hitler’s mistress did. Ultimately she and Hannes discover how the love in one friendship echoes on in two families until it unites them at last.