Margot Benary-Isbert Margaret Sherwood Libby - Essay

Margaret Sherwood Libby

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

[Dangerous Spring is the story of a spring] in Karin Lorenz' life, sixteen, almost seventeen, and in love with Helmut Lobelius, almost twelve years her senior, a young idealistic pastor with an imperturbable passion for truth and indifference to worldly things. It was a desperately dangerous spring. The Third Reich was tottering. The American army would be in Erfurt, Karin's city, any day, and word had gone forth that the city was to be defended….

Karin accompanies Lobelius on his parish calls and watches his sympathy for the heterogeneous group of refugees who crowd his home and bicker constantly, nerves snapping under the long strain. She wonders if she can be the tower of strength this dedicated man needs as a wife, but as danger grows she does her part. There is a superb climax when, just as Karin offers to interpret for the mayor a capitulation of the town to the Americans so it will escape annihilation, he receives orders by telephone from the military commander to offer opposition….

With quiet competence the author, who knows this situation from personal experience, shows the changing mood of the people, a phrase here, a quiet action there …, as well as all points of view and all kinds of people. The minor characters ring true while the main ones are completely realized. Even the full implications of Buchenwald are conveyed to the reader, as they reach Karin and Lobelius, with a force that is all the more effective because it is restrained.

Because this is a love story, though a bitter-sweet one, it will appeal to girls especially, yet we hope boys will read it too, not only to appreciate the character of Lobelius, but for Till,… educated as a Hitler youth, who had to see a boy almost murdered by the SS before he could quite believe that he had been trained by evil. An outstanding book, not only the best this very fine author has done but superb by any standard. It is deeply moving and wise. It offers insights into the complexities of the human heart, its confusions especially, its evil passions and its holiest…. (p. 8)

Margaret Sherwood Libby, in New York Herald Tribune Book Review (© I.H.T. Corporation; reprinted by permission), May 14, 1961.