(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The story of Garden, Ashes is narrated by Andreas (“Andi”) Scham in a series of loosely connected reminiscences about his childhood. At the beginning of the novel, he is a five-year-old boy who remembers vividly the incomprehensible happenings around him: the constant comings and goings, the changing places in which he lives, the numerous older relatives whom he cannot quite remember, and the mysterious disappearances of his father, Eduard Scham. Only later does Andi fully understand these happenings; at the time, surrounded by an aura of anxiety and even fear, he tries simply to cope with them and to understand their meaning, though the fact that his fertile imagination frequently blows things out of proportion does not help. As an obedient child, he follows the adults’ orders instinctively, aware of the fateful nature of the happenings around him. Andi never mentions explicitly the war going on around him, yet he senses that his Jewish father, a former railroad official, is being harassed and hunted for reasons the child cannot yet understand.

Andi is comforted by his steadfast mother, Maria Scham, and his older sister, Anna, who, though yet a child herself, is able to cope slightly better with the ominous events. It is his mother whom he trusts and understands. Although Maria never tries to explain the true nature of the traumatic events happening to them, the two tacitly understand each other. In such a gloomy atmosphere, however, even...

(The entire section is 511 words.)