In the sleepy town of Bratislava in 1933 a romantic girl falls for a bookseller from Berlin. Greta Weissensteiner, daughter of a Jewish weaver, slowly settles in with the Winkelmeier clan just as the developments in Germany start to make waves in Europe and re-draws the visible and invisible borders. The political climate in the multifaceted cultural jigsaw puzzle of disintegrating Czechoslovakia becomes more complex and affects relations between the couple and the families. The story follows them through the war with its predictable and also its unexpected turns and events and the equally hard times after.
But this is no ordinary romance; in fact it is not a romance at all, but a powerful, often sad, Holocaust story. What makes The Luck of the Weissensteiners so extraordinary is the chance to consider the many different people who were never in concentration camps, never in the military, yet who nonetheless had their own indelible Holocaust experiences. This is a wide-ranging, historically accurate exploration of the connections between social location, personal integrity and, as the title says, luck.
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Articles and Interviews:
A Letter from Israel:
“I finally finished reading ‘The Luck of the Weissensteiners’ and been wanting to thank you so much for this.
Christoph, you have written an extraordinary excellent book. I enjoyed it so much and really got attached to the characters and their fate.
You have such good talent in telling a story in a most convincing way while keeping the reader in suspense throughout the book.
Your ability to describe the complexity of different characters and make the reader care for them all is remarkable.
I found myself sympathizing not only with the obvious, such as Greta, Wilma, Jonah and Alma, Edith and Ester, the countess.. but even characters such as Johanna managed to gain some sympathy with me despite their problematic nature.
Above all, you managed to demonstrate the absurdity, cruelty and ugliness of war and intolerance, hatred and prejudice they bring.
You showed so well how war can influence so much the fates and believes of people from different backgrounds. How religion and political views can twist everything and how some people don’t change despite all this.
I liked very much the way the book is embroidered – starting with the ever so romantic promising first episode that is very quickly, just like in real life, shattered into the despair, fear and survival of the main characters – and then, after the war, the expansion to more and more people that bring a broader picture of the aftermath to those years.
I think the book can make a great film too.
Your sensitivity and sensibility towards the Jewish characters and your general knowledge about the Jewish people has moved me a lot of course, Christoph. I especially liked how you showed the Weissensteiners as non-religious (and even converted) and yet still prosecuted.
I really liked how you added Gay and Lesbian characters to the story. It works really well.
I learnt so much from the book about the history of world war II and Czechoslovakia in particular.
Before, I knew very little about how the war effected non-Jewish people and very little about Czechoslovakia and about the Sudeten Germans.
It was amazing to see what people went through and what they had to do to survive.
In Israel, you know, the education system has always concentrated on teaching the Jewish Holocaust and very little about the war itself.
Whole schools travel every year to Poland and visit the concentration camps, but very little is being taught about the fate of others such as gypsies, communists, gays and lesbians in the war and the leading conclusions lack the understanding of tolerance to the other.
For the general public here, it is only in recent years that books and documentaries about other aspects of the war are being exposed – but certainly not enough.
That’s why I truly believe that a book such as The Weissensteiners is A MUST for the Israeli reader.
The problem is that most readers here would not read it unless it’s translated into Hebrew.
I do hope that you may consider publishing it in Hebrew at some point. I think there is great importance to that.”
Quotes From Reviews:
… a story of the strength of the human spirit … survival and hope … I will not forget this read for a while to come.
This is a well-crafted work of literature. It makes excellent and proper use of language. The word choice and sentence structure used is truly inspired, and shows artistry …
I was barely into this book and I felt that I was reading a work that had been published out of its era, as though it were a classic work, only discovered and released in the modern age. I would have believed this book was written in the time it was set in.
The themes the author chose to addressed, from classism and anti-Semitism to religious bias, mental illness, and sexual orientation, were all well presented in plot, and nothing felt forced or even slightly out of place. I was, and still am amazed at the quality of craftsmanship shown in the storytelling.
I expected a work of fiction. This was a work of art.
If you enjoy well drawn characters whose lives and choices so deftly represent the themes of a book, The Luck of the Weissensteiners provides a rich read. In some ways, this book reminds me of classics I read long ago like The Canterbury Tales, or even The Odyssey, due to the diversity of personalities and the theme of journeys.
… we see a cross section of humanity. Through their eyes and reactions, we can appreciate the full range of real outcomes and experiences, happy to sad or shocking, that occurred to real individuals during this era. By the way, the title of the book was an outstanding choice.
It seems paradoxical that a book chronicling hatred, fear, loss and death can be uplifting, but The Luck of the Weissensteiners left me on a high. This is a story about the best human qualities: love, generosity, trust, faith and hope. Christoph Fischer has brilliantly combined emotive fiction with detailed, historical facts to create a powerful and engrossing story. Although I finished reading it five days ago I’m still affected by its message and still charmed by many of its characters.
The Weissensteiners is an intellectual achievement and a lesson in historical perspective, as we are reminded that history is just that, a story told from a human point of view. In any given period of time, there are as many stories as there are participants, along with many converging sensibilities.
… this is decidedly not another rendition of the holocaust. The novel illustrates how the destruction of war rained down on both Jews and non-Jews, who were part of the same community, often got along quite well and even intermarried. This is not a book that you will read and immediately forget. The effects of it will linger on, and that is the mark of a truly talented author.
It is not easy to write about history if one has not lived in the moment, since what one writes is colored by the opinions of others. Christoph Fischer pulls it off in The Luck of the Weissenteiners.
For the whole time reading this I kept thinking to myself that every single bit of this book is written as thou the writer has actually been there, when all of this was happening. I truly admire his work and ability to research everything in such details, and this is a true work of art …this book has not lost my attention for one second, and I truly can tell that I can’t wait for book 2.
The Luck of the Weissensteiners is the tale of a family. But it is also a tale about us. About some of us being evil, some of us cowards, some of us brave, but most of us innately good.Francis Bacon said some books are to be tasted, some to be swallowed… The Luck of the Weissensteiners is to be chewed and digested. I can see that the author has made a great effort to show the reader what turmoil families endured to remain in contact with their loved ones, which must have been quite some feat considering the displacement of Jews after the war had ended. Congratulations to Christoph, for what must have been many long hours researching details and information to ensure that the plight of the family was made ‘real’ to the reader.