08 Feb 2014

Sebastian Reviewed at the Historical Novel Society

Comments Off on Sebastian Reviewed at the Historical Novel Society Book Reviews, News
A big honour for me and my book:
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Sebastian is the second novel of a trilogy about central and Eastern Europe during the first half of the last century. It is 1913 in Vienna, the capital of the diverse Austro-Hungarian Empire. The main character of the title is sixteen and is about to have his leg amputated because of an accident. The book mainly follows his misfortunes and how he copes with them: the amputation, World War One, a family shop to run in increasingly stringent circumstances when his father goes to fight. He is aided and hindered by friends and relatives through the deprivations and uncertainties of the war. A second storyline develops around Margit and her mother Piroska, who journey to Austro-Hungarian Galicia.

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As in the trilogy’s first book, The Luck of The Weissensteiners, the author’s considerable research shows in settings and attitudes which are described in detail and which feel authentic. Sometimes, however, there is too much background; the book at times felt like a history text. Sebastian has a large cast of characters who enable the author to explore a wide range of social, religious and ethnic issues but there was occasionally too much to take in.

As constructive criticism, I thought the cover could have been more 1b4_2011_42_109_98-480x320inspiring to a potential reader’s eye, and the internal layout could be improved. The text is not adequately centred against the page edges when the book is opened fully, and the title and dedication pages are displaced to the right, which jars visually as soon as the book is opened. A few minor errors in the first few pages would be picked up by a further copy-edit, but these were not enough to make me stop reading.

Nevertheless this is a story worth digesting, but like a rich Viennese Sachertorte: one slice at a time.


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More reviews from Amazon:
World War One: Prosecuted on the Domestic Front, February 5, 2014
War novels usually are usually caked in mud and blood. Soldiers are shot at, scarred, tortured, wounded, killed. In Christoph Fischer’s SEBASTIAN, the drama is just as intense; the battlefield just happens to be on the home front.

Set in WWI-era Vienna, this is a story about the families–mostly the women–left behind.
Their husbands and sons dispatched to battle in Serbia and other points East, the war-widows and widows-to-be must adapt to scarcity: of food, of fuel, of money, of faith in a future that could be remotely as good as the comfortable past.

This is an eminently “European” story. Fischer brilliantly captures the “little wars” that invariably occur when three generations of family members are stuck together under one roof–in this case, inside the home of Sebastian Schreiber. Petty squabbles, rivalries and intra-family intrigues are the order of the day. Making matters worse, economic hardship forces the Schreiber family to take in borders, only upping the potential for mischief and misunderstanding.

What makes this novel so interesting–and at times sad–is how nearly every character is confronted with a major choice and, due to the stress and paranoia brought about by wartime conditions, invariably makes the wrong one, derailing lives with devastating consequences.

But it is also a story of resilience, adaptation, and acceptance. Nothing turns out the way everyone hoped it would, but for the main characters of the story–young Sebastian and the two women he loves–the end of the War marks a fresh start and the promise of a better life.

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Exceptionally Brilliant!, January 30, 2014
Christoph Fischer is a master story teller and a brilliant writer. I was enthralled by this story from the introduction. The story begins with a mother’s pain at her young son’s suffering and the heartwrenching decision she had to make on whether or not to allow the doctor to amputate his leg. Set in Vienna, just before the war, the author takes you through the daily lives of the family, as they struggled to cope with life’s many challenges before and during the war. Strange I kept telling myself, this is not your kind of read. But the story flowed so beautifully that I stayed up all night until I’d finished the book. I had not done this in a long while. This is one of those stories in which you could so easily identify with the characters that you feel as if you know them all. The wife Vera, her cheating husband, Franz, her extraordinary son, Sebastian, and even her disgruntled mother in law, Rebecca and her long suffering husband, Oscar. When Sebastian leg was amputated, not once but twice, I felt a mother’s pain. It was a huge relief to me when the book ended on a somewhat high note for Sebastian; he had been through so much. I highly recommend this book.
Insightful Historical Fiction with great depth and Humanity, January 19, 2014
Christoph Fischer continues to display his mastery of historical fiction displayed in The Luck of the Weissensteiners in this book, Sebastian, the second installment in his “Three Nations Trilogy”. This novel traces the life of Sebastien, a teenaged boy who, shortly before the outbreak of WWI, has his leg amputated below the knee due to an untreated infection. As in the Weissensteiners, Sebastian and the other characters symbolize the different peoples and socio-political forces at play in their world, in this case, the Austo-Hungarian Empire in it’s final days. The aspirations, dreams, and conflicts engulfing this ensemble cast serve as a brilliant historical metaphor for that time and place. Mr. Fischer displays his deep historical knowledge and great skill at personifying events and social conflicts, no mean feat given the multitude of ethnic groups, nationalistic aspirations, and complex politics going on in the Empire in this time frame–with the end result being its dissolution. But not to be forgotten is Mr. Fischer’s feel for the humanity of his characters–this is a human story, with the human drama in the forefront, the grand and petty human aspirations unfolding before the historical backdrop. I recommend Sebastian for readers for it’s keen historical insight and human drama–bravo!
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Sebastian (Three Nations Trilogy Book 2)

Sebastian is the story of a young man who has his leg amputated before World War I. When his father is drafted to the war it falls on to him to run the family grocery store in Vienna, to grow into his responsibilities, bear loss and uncertainty and hopefully find love.
Sebastian Schreiber, his extended family, their friends and the store employees experience the ‘golden days’ of pre-war Vienna and the timed of the war and the end of the Monarchy while trying to make a living and to preserve what they hold dear.
Fischer convincingly describes life in Vienna during the war, how it affected the people in an otherwise safe and prosperous location, the beginning of the end for the Monarchy, the arrival of modern thoughts and trends, the Viennese class system and the end of an era.
As in the first part of the trilogy, “The Luck of The Weissensteiners” we are confronted again with themes of identity, Nationality and borders. The step back in time made from Book 1 and the change of location from Slovakia to Austria enables the reader to see the parallels and the differences deliberately out of the sequential order. This helps to see one not as the consequence of the other, but to experience them as the momentary reality as it must have felt for the people at the time.

On Amazon: http://bookshow.me/B00CLL1UY6

On Goodreads: http://ow.ly/pthHZ

On Facebook: http://ow.ly/pthNy

Trailer: http://studio.stupeflix.com/v/95jvSpHf5a/

B&N http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/sebastian-mr-christoph-fischer/1115243053?ean=9781484156001

written by
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany in 1970 as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ is his first published work. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.
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