Haunted by a sense of inner emptiness, Frank Ward struggles to reconcile with his tormented past. He is aided by a series of intense encounters, as well as by an unexpected plunge into researching the life of so-called “Good Nazi”, Albert Speer.
Frank returns to the Spanish village he spent a holiday in as a young student; now a published author, he searches for his next subject, a historian, he becomes fascinated by the story of Albert Speer’s driver, who recuperated in the village after being repatriated from Russia.
Frank becomes friends with Bruno, a pianist, and they discuss Speer over and over, much to the boredom of Bruno’s wife, Frank’s landlady and other women. When Paloma, Bruno’s daughter, arrives back in the village, she and Frank begin to fall in love.
The switches back and forth from first to third person narration are interesting, they add to the unsettling subject matter, the life of Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect, and a man who built his own myth, that of being a “good Nazi” while in Spandau prison for twenty years. Frank and Bruno are obsessed by him and the weak link to the village where they are. They endlessly debate whether he was a liar (as shown after his death) or as he wanted to be seen – ignorant of the horrors going on around him.
It’s a rather redundant debate, one quick Google search would have answered their questions, and I think that’s why the other characters get a bit fed up with them. Paloma, who actually knew the recuperating driver, tolerates it slightly better than her mother.
But Frank seems to be one of those people who broods on the past, their own included. He thinks about his previous trip to this village, to stay with his friend Juan, and the girl he met then. His Speer obsession becomes so all consuming it stops his melancholy.
It’s an interesting book, beautifully written, even if I got a bit bored of their fixation on one of the chief Nazis, and the fact that we know there’s so such thing as a “good” one.
*I was kindly gifted a copy of this book in exchange for taking part in the blog tour but all opinions remain my own.