Book Review: At the Wolf’s Table by Rosella Postorino (Three Stars)

Book Review: At the Wolf’s Table by Rosella Postorino, translated from the Italian by Leah Janeczko

(Three Stars)

“Hitler had designed a complex system to avoid being poisoned by the enemy, yet in the meantime be was poisoning himself.”

A credible historical fiction about a young woman dragooned into being a food tester for Adolf Hitler. Good inner dialogue of a young non-Nazi caught up in the tornado of Hitler’s mad dream. Appropriate connections to historic events, especially the July 20, 1944 attempt to assassinate Hitler.

“The fact that widowhood … was a common condition was no consolation. I never imagined it could happen to me.”

Told from a third person perspective, tightly focused on Rosa. When the perspective shifts, it weakens the storytelling.

“My punishment had finally arrived. It wasn’t poison, it wasn’t death—it was life.”

Quibbles: People knocked over by explosion outside the security perimeter by an explosion inside the Wolfsschanze [Wolf’s Lair] bunker. Jews discovered and captured near Hitler’s hiding spot in 1944 would not be “deported” but sent to Auschwitz. If not shot.

“When you lose someone, the pain you feel is for yourself, the pain that you’ll never see them again, never hear their voice again, that without them, you think, you’ll never make it. Pain is selfish. That was what made me angry.”

The early onset of widowhood foreshadows an almost Tolkienian eucatastrophe. Part Three is an awkward epilogue. It reads as if the publisher demanded more closure. But Postorino added too many new characters, too much new subplot and too many temporal leaps. She lost a star in the last twenty pages.

“There’s no place where people are so abysmally silent as in German families.”

Too bad Postorino didn’t get to interview Margot Wölk, the actual last food taster, who inspired this story.

“If [the Russians] do to us what we’ve done to them, it’s going to be horrible.”