Summer of My German Soldier
Summer of My German Soldier Author(s) Bette Greene Country USA Language English Genre(s) Young adult novel Publisher Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Publication date 1973 Media type book Pages 199 (193 paperback) ISBN 0-440-21892 Followed by Morning Is a Long Time Coming
Summer of My German Soldier is a book by Bette Greene first published in 1973.
The story is told in first person narrative by a twelve-year-old Jewish girl named Patty Bergen living in Jenkinsville, Arkansas during World War II. The story focuses on the friendship between Patty and an escaped German POW named Anton. Patty first meets Anton when a group of German POWs visits her father's store. Anton teaches Patty that she is a person of value. In return, she protects Anton by hiding him above her father's garage.
The book was followed by a sequel, Morning Is a Long Time Coming.
- Patricia Anne Bergen: Patty is a 12-year-old Jewish girl living in Jenkinsville, Arkansas during World War II. Patty is very intelligent and intellectually curious, particularly about words. On the other hand, she can also be naive and unworldly. At the beginning of the novel Patty has low self-esteem brought on by her troubled family life. During the novel and as Patty becomes friends with Anton, she begins to gain the self-esteem she is lacking.
- Frederick Anton Reiker: Anton comes from Germany, but is half English (his mother is from Manchester). His English-educated father is a professor of history who gets into trouble for making fun of Hitler in lectures. Anton has no sympathy either with the Nazi party or its ideology.
- Ruth Hughes: The Bergen's black maid who takes care of Patty and Patty's sister, Sharon. As one of the individuals who is closest to Patty, she is very loving and is extremely influential in Patty's life.
- Harry Bergen: Patty's abusive father who runs a local department store. He is known for flirting with other women in town and is very conscious of money. Harry seems to loathe his elder daughter and tends to favor his younger daughter, Sharon.
- Pearl Bergen: Pearl is Patty's mother. Pearl is a vain woman who negatively comments on Patty's looks and behavior, both directly to her daughter and to others. As the story is being told through Patty's eyes, she also tends to favor her younger daughter, Sharon.
- Sharon Bergen: Patty's younger sister. Sharon appears loved by everyone in Jenkinsville, including Patty. Patty is jealous of the adoration and encouragement her sister receives from their parents but is very fond of her sister.
- Freddy Dowd: Patty's only school friend. Patty's father doesn't approve of their friendship, possibly because he is poor, or because he is a Gentile. In one instance Harry Bergen beats Patty with his belt when he catches her with Freddy. Freddy is slow and naive, and does not understand Patty's reluctance to be friends with him, which she feels unable to explain truthfully.
- Edna Louise Jackson: A wealthy friend of Patty's. Along with most of the children Patty is friends with, Edna goes away to Baptist camp for most of the summer. Patty wants to be able to go, too, but her mother will not permit it because they are Jewish. It is revealed at one point that Edna's grandfather cheated Ruth's mother out of her lifesavings, an example of the themes of hypocrisy and injustice that the book addresses.
- Charlene Madlee: A reporter and friend of Patty's.
- Sister Parker: Works at the department store and was present when Anton first came in. She is also the worker Patty tells about the golden ring.
- Calvin Grimes: The Bman in charge of driving Patty to the Reformatory. Mr. Grimes is a kind man who is sympathetic towards patty
- Sheriff town sheriff.
There are many themes in this novel, including prejudice and self-esteem.
Prejudice exists in many forms, some of them ironic. While Anton, as a German soldier, might be assumed to be a Nazi sympathizer and therefore antisemitic, he is not pro-Nazi and develops a relationship with Patty, who is Jewish. On the other hand, the townspeople show prejudice towards the German soldiers, and many white families in town maintain black servants.
Another theme is that of self-esteem, especially in the face of abuse or personal difficulty. At the beginning of the book, Patty is abused by her father and is insulted by her mother. As she gets to know Anton and forms an attachment to him, her self-esteem grows and she learns that she has value as a person.
In 1978 the novel was turned into a made-for-television film of the same title, Summer of My German Soldier. It was fairly well received and won an Emmy Award and a Humanitas Prize. In the movie Anton was shot outside of Jenkinsville, not in New York City. Patty was played by Kristy McNichol and Bruce Davison played Anton.
A new musical version of the novel with music and lyrics by David Brush and Jim Farley opened in Ohio in August 2003, staged by Encore Theater Company.
Bette Greene is a well established author who has won many awards for her classic novels. Summer of My German Soldier has won ALA Notable Book along with New York Times Book of the Year (1973) and National Book Award Finalist. Her work is described as "courageous and compelling" by Publishers Weekly. She is known for her ability to evoke deep emotion through her writing style. Referencing the book's popularity, the mockumentary C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America, which details an alternate history where the Confederacy won the Civil War, alludes to an in-universe novel called "Summer of My Union Soldier" which is described as echoing romanticism in literature between North and South.
- ^ Cast, IMDb, http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0078341/fullcredits#cast .
- ^ Product description, USA: Amazon, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/product-description/0142406511 .
- Greene, Bette. Summer of My German Soldier. Bantam Doubleday Dell Books: New York, NY, 1993. ISBN 978-0-440-90056-6.
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