From a remarkable new talent in Irish fiction comes a terrifyingly intimate story of a war marriage caught up in the calamity of World War II, a much anticipated debut which has garnered prepublication praise from Colm Toibin, Hugo Hamilton, A.D. Miller, and Chris Cleave.
In a desperate bid to escape the trenches of the Eastern front, Peter Faber, an ordinary German soldier, marries Katharina Spinell, a woman he has never met, in a marriage of convenience that promises 'honeymoon' leave for him and a pension for her should he die in the war. With ten days' leave secured, Peter visits his new wife in Berlin and both are surprised by the passion that develops between them.
When Peter returns to the horror of the front, it is only the dream of Katharina that sustains him as he approaches Stalingrad. Back in Berlin, Katharina, goaded on by her desperate and delusional parents, ruthlessly works her way into Nazi high society, wedding herself, her young husband, and her unborn child to the regime.
But when the tide of war turns and Berlin falls, Peter and Katharina find their simple dream of family cast in tragic light and increasingly hard to hold on to.
Reminiscent of Bernard Schlink's The Reader, this is an unforgettable novel of marriage, ambition, and the brutality of war, which heralds the arrival of a breathtaking new voice in international fiction.
Watch a video of the author HERE.
Listen to the author reading her book HERE.
Read an interview with the author HERE.
And another one HERE.
Praise for the book:
“A bold, honest novel about Nazi greed and moral blankness…Magee's cool, precise tone recalls Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin, and, like Heinrich Böll, Magee is haunted by the everyday and the small people who are inseparably part of a great ravagement.” ~The Guardian (UK)
“A powerful creation. Its denouement, which dramatizes the brutal behavior of Russian troops as they advance into a stricken Germany at the end of the war, is profoundly moving. Ms Magee’s willingness to examine the darkest elements of the conflict in a novel that still asserts the redeeming power of love is commendable. We should keep an eye out for her future work.” ~The Economist
“Sweeping, powerful, epic…Magee’s writing is fast-moving, with a great visual sense, and conversations so believable that you can almost hear them.” ~~The Times (UK)
"The Undertaking is written with sympathy and skill. The narrative is tense and engaging, filled with complex undertones, impelled by an urgency and a deep involvement with the characters." ~Colm Toibin
“Absorbing… original…eloquent… a poignant reminder of the ferocious struggle for Stalingrad and its aftermath. [A]n impressive debut.” ~The Independent (UK)
"A violent, elegant, unsentimental journey through hell and halfway back. This is an outstanding novel by a writer of huge talent and unusual candour." ~ Chris Cleave, author of Little Bee
“This is Audrey Magee’s first book – and a foray into a hotly contested historical event, the Battle of Stalingrad. She makes it fresh through a tight focus on the alternating experiences of Peter and Katharina, cleverly resisting the temptation to describe places and events beyond their necessarily circumscribed viewpoints. Magee makes exciting use of dialogue...the voices shine from the page...The Undertaking is an engaging and beautifully written novel, with an emotional resonance that remains long after you’ve closed the book. It succeeds in doing what only the best historical novels can do – making the past feel present.” ~The Independent (UK)
"A bold and unsettling feat of empathy, all the more daring for its taut, beautifully understated style." ~A D Miller, author of Snowdrops
"Audrey Magee is a writer with great understanding for the force of history impacting on the lives of ordinary German people during World War 2. The story of a proxy marriage offers a perfect view into the urgency and magnitude of life with its doomed interior landscape of wartime necessities and moral ambiguities under Hitler's Reich. The Undertaking is a novel of wonderful subtlety and acceleration." ~Hugo Hamilton
"Audrey Magee is one of the most exciting new talents to arrive on the literary scene. There is an emotional depth to her writing which elevates her to the top rank of contemporary novelists. I read her book with awe and gratitude." ~Fergal Keane