Thursday, December 1, 2011

Blog Tour: The Volga Germans by Sigrid Weidenweber

The Meiningers had set out for Russia seeking to improve their lives, to escape the political and religious turmoil often surrounding their otherwise picturesque German homes and villages. They dreamed of the faraway place awaiting them. They colored the soil beneath the vast steppe rich and black in their minds ready to be tilled. And there would be a neat little house ready to receive them. In their wildest dreams, they could not have imagined what actually awaited their arrival. There were no houses, no fields nothing but grass as far as the eye could see. It was almost evening; they were hungry, wet and cold and felt like orphaned children.

These German immigrants and their descendants civilized this bleak Russian frontier, converted the harsh steppe into fields of waving grain dotted with wind-driven flour mills, and in this isolated place, developed a culture that was uniquely their own. They survived savage attacks of marauding tribes, the unpredictable often harsh climate, and the vagaries of tsarist edicts. Sigrid tells the fascinating story of these remarkable people in The Volga Germans.

The Volga Germans is the second volume in Sigrid Weidenweber's trilogy The Volga Flows Forever. Catherine, the first volume, brings to life the fascinating historical character of Catherine the Great who invited her native countrymen to settle the Russian frontier. In the final volume, From Gulag to Freedom, she follows the Volga Germans through the hardships of collectivization and deportation during the Soviet years to finally immigrate to the San Joaquin Valley of Central California.

This is the second book in the Volga trilogy, and it is a great continuation to the story.

I thought this book was actually structured better than the previous one. The plot flowed better, the different storylines melding together with more skill. The historical detail is as impeccable as in the previous book, with many fascinating moments. For example, the description of the extreme cold, and the way that the farmers suffered it, is almost a visceral experience for the reader. The same thing with their struggle with nomads and wolves, who threaten their every success. There is a tension to the narrative that adds another layer to the reading experience.

This is not a book for everyone, however. The pace sometimes can get slow at some moments, and for those of you who don’t really love historical details, it might get dull. But for those of us who love a good atmosphere as well as a story based on real events, this book is a wonderful addition to our libraries.

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