(The Three Nations Trilogy, Book 2)
(The Three Nations Trilogy, Book 2)
by Christoph Fischer
This is the second in my special feature on The Three Nations Trilogy, leading up to release of the last book in the series on 15 October. Today we feature the second book in the trilogy, Sebastian. Make sure you enter the giveaway below for your chance to win a copy of this book. You can also check out my previous blog post on the first book, The Luck of the Weissensteiners. Coming soon – The Black Eagle Inn.
Sebastian is the story of a young man who, due to an unfortunate accident, has his leg amputated shortly before World War I. When his father is drafted to the war it falls to him to run the family grocery store in Vienna, to grow into his responsibilities, bear loss and uncertainty, and hopefully find love.
Sebastian Schreiber, his extended family, their friends and the store employees experience the ‘golden days’ of pre-war Vienna, the time of war and the end of the Monarchy, while trying to make a living and to preserve what they hold dear.
Fischer brilliantly describes life in Vienna during the war years; how it affected the people in an otherwise safe and prosperous location, the beginning of the end for the monarchic system , the arrival of modern thoughts and trends, the Viennese class system and the end of an era.
As in the first book of the trilogy, The Luck of the Weissensteiners, we are confronted again with themes of identity, nationality and borders. The step back in time from Book 1 and the change of location from Slovakia to Austria enables the reader to see the parallels and the differences deliberately out of sequential order, so as not to see one as the consequence of the other, but to experience them as the reality it must have felt like for people at the time.
Before his new line of work, he had avoided using crutches and a walking stick at any cost, too vain and proud to show any dependence like it. Now he didn’t care anymore whether ten or twenty people threw degrading remarks at him. If his dignity was already compromised on a regular basis then it did not make much of a difference if he himself accentuated the problem more than he would have liked otherwise. His stump rewarded him for the new and more attentive care by growing stronger and healthier.
Vera eventually forced Sebastian to subject himself to an examination by the dreaded Dr Rosenzweig – just to be sure that there was no further damage that the young teacher might keep to himself.
“Now this is how I would have liked the scar tissue to look last year,” the impertinent and arrogant man said loudly. “If you had only listened to me from the beginning!”
Vera and Sebastian looked sheepish. If only her friend Mathilde had been here, Vera thought, they could have asked the doctor how he had been able to keep his safe position away from the front in the clinic, rather than having to man a field hospital nearer the front line of the war. He might have been too old and unfit for war duties but it was odd to think that he could evade the tough decisions of the labour and war ministries.
As if he had read her mind he added: “I am taking up a new position at the General Hospital next week on the Emperor’s personal request. Such routine examinations are not something I will be able to attend to in the future. You better make sure that you keep looking after yourself,” he said to Sebastian. “If I have to choose between giving a morphine ration to someone who lost his leg in the line of duty to the throne, and someone who just wouldn’t take my advice, I know to whom I would give it. Do you understand?”
“Yes we understand,” Vera replied for her son. “Can I just say, now that our professional contact has come to an end, that you are the most impertinent and unkind of doctors I have encountered in my life. Your manners put your profession to shame.”
Red in her face with rage she made for the door, signalling Sebastian who was still in the process of getting dressed again to follow her.
“I will not be sorry to see you go either, Frau Schreiber,” he replied sharply. “If people like you didn’t waste our precious time and resources with unnecessary drama or self-inflicted worsening of your conditions, then the medical supplies of this city would be a lot better. Now, if you would like to see yourself out, I have clients that are more deserving of my time.”
“Good bye. May God punish you!” Vera said before closing the door.
Dr Rosenzweig laughed at this last remark of hers but after she had gone he fell silent and played nervously with his moustache.
When a book opens before you, you expect to enter into a new reality – here, it is dropped upon you with a rarely seen immediacy. From the very first sentence, when the Serbian doctor tells Vera, “I am afraid I won’t be able to save his leg,” you understand in your bones how hard she tries to remain composed, so as not to frighten her son. Having stepped on a rusty nail, Sebastian has been hiding his injury from her, which is about to cost him dearly: the amputation of his leg, and the blow to the way he perceives himself at this sensitive age, both of which will eventually drive him to find his bearings, as he must. And not only he must overcome the limitations of his handicap, and come into his own-so must other characters, such as his frail mother. This is a time of war. We must all grow up. We must all find our inner power.
The author, Christoph Fischer, has drawn life in Vienna with vivid detail, illustrating the intricacies of the pre-World War I era with great imagination, which is underpinned by careful research of historical aspects. As the father leaves for war, Sebastian is charged with being the man in the family; not an easy task for any young man, and it is even more of a challenge for Sebastian. His is an imbalanced, stilted world, controlled by the women left behind, both his mother and the mother of his beloved Margit, who makes her daughter leave him and follow her to Galicia, in search of her father. I was reminded of several women in my own family, and smiled with awe and affection at the amazing (if sometimes annoying) power and initiative of Jewish mothers…
I am yet to read the first part of The Three Nations Trilogy, The Luck of the Weissensteiners. But to tell you the truth, sometimes I like reading one volume of a trilogy out of order, to see if it holds on its own. Sebastian does.
About the Author
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers, he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where he is still resident today.
The Luck of the Weissensteiners, the first book in The Three Nations Trilogy, is Christoph’s first published work. Sebastian, the second book in the series, was released in May 2013. The last book in trilogy, The Black Eagle Inn, will be released shortly.
Christoph is also a reviewer of independent books and on his recommendation pages on this site he features interviews and reviews of the books that have most captured his attention and appreciation by genre.
Christoph has kindly donated an ebook copy of Sebastian for our giveaway. Please show your appreciation by entering below.