Unhinge the Universe
This is a love story, not so plain and definitely not simple. Chew on that for a sec… ok, good? Then let’s begin.This mostly takes place in 1944 in France, WW II at full blast, civilians and soldiers getting more and more demanding in their desires and actions to just make it all stop. The Russian front was especially brutal, and in every part of the continent, more and more towns and lands were being destroyed, in ruins and everyone was getting more desperate to find the key to turn the lock and open the door to peace – could that really happen?Before they could even get there, you had to survive first, including an SS officer, Hagen, and an American captain, John. They’re each doing their jobs, trying to gain intelligence, information, that may help get them all home in one piece sooner than later. I don’t want to give too many details away, even when it comes to the time line, so if you get frustrated by slightly vague reviews, maybe stop now and just go read this book. If that doesn’t bother you, and you’d like a little more, then carry on ;)Despite the seemingly incredible premise of this story, about the connection and interwoven paths between Hagen and John, it all works. There really aren’t any holes: from how Hagen ends up at the first camp where he and John “meet”, to the times when each of them give in to the momentary ‘what if’ in a question posited or answer provided, to the ‘what the hell am I doing?’ kind of decisions they each make that lead to unexpected but mostly accepted consequences. The fact that it takes place during war of course makes events seem unlikely but I think it’s actually the opposite: under extreme circumstances, you realize quickly what you want and what you’ll do to both get and keep it. This carries through the entire story and informs motivations with well-fed clarity. You’ll come close to holding your breath more than once, trying to remain quiet just like Hagen and John are often forced to do. In attempts to stay alive, what they do and what they say, how they say, when they say – all must be measured against making it another day, mentally and physically. To what end, to what life, they don’t know and neither do we.I’m usually not a huge fan of straight forward love stories, but I feel that is what we get here and it’s simply beautiful. Smooth and jarring, confusing and sharply in focus, sad and joyful, muddy and sexy. That it’s set during WW II is a huge part of it: hearing the description of Ardennes, having the town of Colmar mentioned, the intense cold, the beautiful countryside, the farms and farmhouses, I just can’t get enough. It’s a part of history that I have read a lot about, so with that as the setting for this fabulous story, I sank right in.This is definitely the work of Witt and Voinov but different than any of their other stories. READ. IT. And love.