A Life Divided is an historical fiction thriller, the first novel by Mike Stul
|As the story begins it is basically a love story, “As Sophie sat upright her long black hair flopped over her face causing them both to fall about laughing as she blew her lips hard and her hair parted revealing her sexy almond shaped green eyes.” The story of Max Samuels and his business and love life unfolds in modern times but the story of Hans Myerhoffer is set against the backdrop of the German elite in World War II. The style of writing is full and embellished with well written dialogue falling into a flowing cadence of love in the time of war. Hans is the leader of the Hitler Youth Movement in Karlsfeld, Bavaria, there is a certain noblesse oblige, the dialogue is perfect, everyone has the perfect response, he appears seamless. His father was a soldier, killed in World War I and was given the Iron Cross, he lives in the shadow of the military and is “Proud to be a German” and to serve and die for his country. When anti-semitism rears its ugly head and the town mid-wife and good friend of the family, Elisabeth (who is half Jewish) has a brick thrown through her living room window he realizes it is not safe for her in Germany and with a friend arranges for her to move to Poland where work and an apartment have are waiting for her.
There is a beautiful Christmas celebration where family and friends gather and he proposes to his girlfriend, Eva, the daughter of the owner of the local bake shop, who enthusiastically says yes. Hans is promoted and is appointed to the S.S. personal bodyguard of Adolf Hitler, Hitler takes a special interest and he gives detailed character sketches of the Hitler’s inner circle without quite realizing the horror. Knowing the history of World War II, I am fascinated with the aplomb, circumstance and honours and watching the main character for his fall from grace, the moment he realizes that he is supporting a megalomaniac leader who is causing destruction. The point that is the most telling is when Hans bungles the assassination attempt on Hitler in the bunker, he saves
both his friend Gerd’s life and Hitler’s as if he is just doing his duty, killing the saboteur and at this point I find this main character very naïve and for me he falls from grace. Hitler commends him and tells stories of his father’s valour, how they fought together in World War I, his father saving Hitler’s life and talks of his plans for world domination. And the main character does not bat an eyelash and neither does he question. In the building of Germania an architectural achievement, the Germans are expropriated and reimbursed and relocated while the Jews in the area are sent to concentration camps.
It was as if in this time, the German propaganda machine reigned, there was a lack of real information and people were unconscious, unquestioning as human rights were violated. In the background is the interesting play of power and intrigue in Hitler’s inner circle, there is a need for more men in the field and Hans and his comrade Gerd are commissioned to serve in Auschwitz, Poland. And this is his loss of innocence. “This isn’t us, is it Gerd? I love my country and will spill my last bit of blood for the Fatherland, but cold blooded murders?” and this is Gerd’s rationalization “you have to let your feelings go and while in here let your conscience go also. Right or wrong, there is a reason for all this mass killing. What, I don’t know but there has to be and that’s what I believe in. If the other officers see you are weak and Commander Hob sees you are weak they will make your life hell.” And so begins hell night for Hans.
He becomes an actor playing up the role of brutality to the other S.S. officers while staying as much away from the actual brutality expected as possible. As if by some hand of fate he discovers Elisabeth and saves her by making her his housekeeper. He starts drinking and takes a lover in the young Polish girl, Zafia but there is trouble and he shoots 2 S.S. guards who have threatened her, Gerd chimes in and together they become the Resistance. Hans having redeemed himself the story catches fire. Immediately I am reminded of the movie Casablanca, the bar at Rick’s Place, Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman, the Vichy intrigue in the Morrocan city of Casablanca. As the story of World War II ends, the story of Max Samuels kicks in as he channels information through a seer and past life regression leading him to Germany to find Hans. Truly a New Age Thriller, disturbing and will keep you guessing until the very end.