By: Renny Logan <email@example.com>
Daniel Kraushaar, the main character in David Chotjewitz’s award winning novel Daniel Half Human, is half-Jewish. Oblivious to this fact, he is vehemently pro-Nazi at the beginning of this intriguing, though somewhat bland, story.
The novel starts out in first person limited from Daniel’s view point, driving through post-World War II Germany as an American officer stationed in the Royal British Army as a translator. It’s 1945, and he’s driving through the streets of his childhood.
Throughout the book, Chotjewitz switches into third-person omniscient as Daniel fades into flashbacks, recalling the days when he longed to be in the Hitler Jugend. The transitions between third and first-person are easily discernible because they only occur between chapters. The reader can easily tell when a transition has occurred.
The different viewpoints Chotjewitz offers give a better look at the story; the reader can see the personality and emotion of each character more strongly through the third-person perspective. However, when Daniel is speaking, the reader can see how he feels about his experiences in a more “real” sense.
The novel, though written somewhat blandly, manages to be both compelling and stimulating. It’s quasihistorical references, while factual, aren’t too in depth as to bore the reader. In the opinion of a history nerd, the book could actually dive into the historical events a little more; however, for the average reader, the book doesn’t get bogged down in details, but maintains relevance and quickly jumps back to the plot.
While a general knowledge of the Holocaust in Germany and World War II could benefit the reader, the author provides brief but informative explanations each time a historical event is referenced. Chotjewitz makes clear the novel’s purpose as a historical fiction and not as a textbook.
When it comes to writing style, on the other hand, perhaps some of the flair got lost in translation. Originally written in German, the novel was translated by Doris Orgel. To say that the book is poorly written would be to overstep; however, the writing is overly simplistic at times, with little sentence variety. To its merit, though, the book is an easy and fast read, fluidly carrying the reader through its brief 325 pages.
The plot is interesting in its tortuous journey, occasionally throwing the reader a curve ball, but mostly holds fast to its meandering path. The book has an easy going feel to it that lacks any significant suspense. But the end is less than expected and probably the most shocking part of the whole story. It catches the reader unaware and unsuspecting.
While the reader wonders if the book is worth his or her while, Chotjewitz slowly has been brewing a surprise. And while the end is shocking in an unimpactful way, it lingers inside the mind of the reader, a constant source of wonder for several days later.
In its entirety, this novel has earned its place on the Rosie list. Despite the mediocre quality of the writing, the story line does more than compensate.