My Father's House

MY FATHER'S HOUSE: A Childhood in Wartime Bavaria
Books & Co. / Helen Marx Books, NY 2007

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"...we ended up waiting for several hours at an airstrip near the foot of Mt. Everest, and it was there that Trixi began telling me stories of her past...

...there is another Teutonic dichotomy, and it is between the Germany of brutalism and expansionism and concentration camps, and the Germany that is all gingerbread and music and apple-cheeked women in dirndls, and this book is a resounding affirmation that this good Germany existed even in the period when the evil Germany was ascendant.

...the reader finds himself nostalgic for someone else's childhood. That is no mean accomplishment. It is particularly impressive given that the tale is set in a malevolent larger context. These stories are not saccharine, but their message is that wartime is not antithetical to love or to beauty. Those dark days formed the person who is our narrator, whom one cannot help but like and admire..."
-- from the Introduction by Andrew Solomon

"Imagine a feminine Marcel Proust growing up consciously on a farm in Bavaria during troubled times, delving into the archeology of desire through her parents' love letters, and deftly evoking a fascinating world with the sensitive eye and delicate hand of a skilled painter of scenes and moods and emotions ­ and you'll be ready to enjoy Beatrix Ost's delicious gift, her book, My Father's House. She transports you there to her lost times and world most powerfully, unforgettably." --
Robert Thurman, professor and author of Inner Revolution, Tibetan Book of the Dead, and Infinite Life.

"Beatrix Ost has written a memoir which captures the end of World War II in Germany through the eyes of a bright and sensitive girl. The large farm, the houses, the family and the many other people they sheltered come to life. It is as though Beatrix Ost pressed her head on each page and magically transmitted (oh! if it could ever be that easy!) the vision of the little girl she was then and the wisdom of the woman she is now. This is a valuable testimony -- but above all a gorgeous book." --
John Casey

"Occasionally we meet a writer whose work can be read not only for historical detail but also for the sheer pleasure of the act of reading. Beatrix Ost is just such a writer, and a recent journey with her husband to the idyllic Bavarian farmland of her youth carries this beautiful memoir through the innocent travails of youthful innocence and the horrors of Nazi administration. Throughout, the nuances of a youthful view of life in a war-torn land, combined with her skill in choosing the perfect sentiment time and time again, left me both breathless and inspired. Ost writes with the flair and fredom of the artist supported by the precision of a diamond cutter. If you have ever wondered what it was like for an established, intelligent and sensitive family in Hitlerian Bavaria, you will find the wonders of truth in My Father's House" --
Dennis Smith

"Most girls never have to deal with the discovery that Father was sent home from Africa by his friend Rommel, narrowly escaping court martial for defeatism. But this shock is only a foretaste of the long-forgotten childhood which returns to Beatrix Ost through a neglected packet of WWII letters. Ost recounts in astonishing detail an almost unknown chapter in the history of German private life. In the eye of the Third Reich hurricane, the vast estate of her childhood was to become shelter for friend and foe alike, a cast of characters ranging from forced laborers and gypsies to traumatized family members, displaced generals and spies, and her fearless and nurturing mother -- the first healing piece of civilization many concentration camp inmates see after their ordeal. "The farm community gathered...forming a half-circle, staring rigidly at the approaching strangers in their desiccated floral colors, the skin of their faces gaunt and gray like dusty paper. A faraway stare from gutted eyes. Who were they? Where were they coming from on this bright June day? Dachau, said the young man who led them."

Rendered with insight, humor, and an acute visual lyricism, and sprinkled with fairy tales, rhymes, and family photographs, Ost's memoir is a unique exploration of memory's lasting influence: what does it mean to have been a child in the countryside near Munich, with American planes strafing you as you walked home from school, and a father scarred by the insanity of the Nazi war machine?