Sunday, August 8, 2010
Rated 5 stars
I really liked this authors writing style. It was one of those books that I couldn't put down and hated to see it come to an end. And speaking of the ending - it had a twist that I didn't see coming even though I had figured out most of it.
An award-winning sports journalist and versatile author, Deford (Everybody's All American) has written a work of enthralling historical fiction told in the form of a mother-to-son memoir. Dying of cancer at age 87, Sydney Stringfellow Branch begins telling her 62-year-old son her life story, starting with how she developed her prowess as a backstroke swimmer and attended the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. While there, she fell in love with a young German named Horst, an assistant to director Leni Reifenstahl, who had been commissioned by Hitler to make a film about the games. While Sydney's escapades in Berlin bring her into contact with Nazi politicos, most of her time is spent with Horst, as their love blossoms. Inevitably, Sydney must return to America, where she slowly initiates a move from her Eastern Shore Maryland home to New York City and then finds a job and joins the Women's Swimming Association (WSA). With her focus now on competing in the 1940 Tokyo Olympics, Sydney does not foresee that destiny and impending war will bring further surprising changes to her life. Verdict Deford slyly teaches readers something about 1930s-1940s history while also writing convincingly about love and war. Sydney is a spirited narrator whose fictional memoir is sprinkled with innumerable colloquialisms and many reflective of the era. Highly recommended.