Bookworm: Will the few well-told stories save ‘Nazi Wives?’

‘Coolest Stuff’ an around-the-world adventure trip without leaving your family room

Terri Schlichenmeyer
Columnist

“Nazi Wives: The Women at the Top of Hitler’s Germany”

  • By James Wyllie
  • c. 2019, St. Martin’s Press
  • $28.99, $38.50 Canada; 288 pages

Stand by your man. That’s what the old song says you’re supposed to do: stand by him, support him, tell him when he’s right and when he needs to re-consider his stance. Stand by him, not as his lesser but as an equal in a life-plan that benefits you both but, as in the new book “Nazi Wives” by James Wyllie, give him a good shove first.

“Nazi Wives: The Women at the Top of Hitler’s Germany” author James Wyllie.

In the years after World War I, Adolph Hitler had been quietly building a group of elite and powerful men for “a national revolution.” He’d been thinking about it for a while, and he knew that war hero Hermann Goering would be an “asset” to his group, though Goering apparently didn’t feel the same sense of urgency to join the fledgling Nazi party. Goering’s wife, Carin, however, “worshipped the ground Hitler walked on” and that ultimately sealed the deal for Goering.

Gerda Buch was still a child when she met the man she would call “Uncle Adolph,” who became a guardian-mentor of sorts, and was influential in young Gerda’s upbringing. Once she was an adult, the influence extended to her marriage to Martin Bormann.

Ilse Pröhl stood by her boyfriend, Rudolf Hess, even when he was in prison. She reportedly wasn’t happy with the chaste aspect of it, but she was impressed with Hess’s relationship with Hitler and his influence in the writing of Mein Kampf.

“Nazi Wives: The Women at the Top of Hitler’s Germany” by James Wyllie.

After working as a nurse with the German Red Cross, Margaret Boden shared a love of alternative medicine with Heinrich Himmler, who was somewhat of a Mama’s boy. Emmy Sonnemann was her husband’s second wife, and she never quite connected with Hitler as did her wedded peers. Lina Heydrich was said to have been “breathlessly” captivated by the odd-looking Reinhard Heydrich. And Magda Quandt, after marrying Joseph Goebbels, agreed to an intimate triangular relationship that included Adolph Hitler ...

In his introduction, author James Wyllie says that he decided to write on this subject because it’s rarely covered and that in his research, he found “gaps and chunks of time” unaccounted for in the lives of Nazi brides. Sadly, these “gaps” are chasms, and they make “Nazi Wives” repetitive, sometimes confusing, and only mildly interesting.

To be sure, there’s a lot about the inner-circle (male) Nazis here: their childhoods, mindsets, careers, wealth, homes, and mistresses. We learn about Adolph Hitler’s loves and his temper tantrums; there’s a bit about World War II battles and marches and atrocities, but really not much. No, the assumed focus is on Nazi wives, as per the title, but Wyllie’s aforementioned dearth of information leaves readers with subjects that aren’t fleshed out nearly enough. What we get are compelling facts mixed lightly with inferences and scandalous gossip, like a one-time banquet before a steady diet of supermarket tabloid.

Will the few well-told stories – the lives of the Bormanns, the end of Magda Goebbels – save this book? Hard to say; WWII scholars might be intrigued with “Nazi Wives.” History buffs may be interested. Many readers, though, won’t stand for it.

“The Coolest Stuff on Earth: A Closer Look at the Weird, Wild, and Wonderful”

  • By National Geographic Kids
  • c. 2020, National Geographic
  • $19.99, $25.99 Canada; 192 pages

Last month, you asked for all the hottest holiday gifts. Maybe you got ‘em, and yay! Or maybe you didn’t, and you’re working on earning your own money. Either way, it’ll happen, you’re chill with it, so in the meantime, why not check out what’s inside “The Coolest Stuff on Earth” by National Geographic Kids and see what else is as cool as you.

Don’t look now, but there are a lot of super-awesome things to know about the world. Did you realize, for instance, that sloths are absolutely covered in bugs? Yep, there’s a story and it’s inside “The Coolest Stuff on Earth.”

“The Coolest Stuff on Earth: A Closer Look at the Weird, Wild, and Wonderful” by National Geographic Kids.

Or get this: if you like to build things, this book features a look at “amazing architecture”: an apartment building shaped like a molecule, a hotel that hangs over a hillside, and a home that looks a lot like an alien spaceship. Read this book and see the inside of the Tower of Pisa and a monument in India, go aboard a 16th-century ship, and a take peek at what cities of the world might look like someday.

So, you’re an animal lover? Yep, then “The Coolest Stuff on Earth” is the book to find. Read about a bird that makes a big stink about staying alive. Learn a few facts about snakes and sharks, find out how scientists know that dolphins can “talk,” and see the picture of a draco lizard in flight. And if you have a cat, you’ll be checking out its tongue after you learn about it in this book.

When you read “The Coolest Stuff on Earth,” you’ll find out about Roman statues that have literally lost their heads over politics. Learn how castles worked, and how they kept their kings and queens safe from enemies. Find out why fireworks go bang! and how different chemicals make different colors. Read about marine lakes, rabbit high-jumps, cool Olympic records, facts about our one-dollar bill, crocodile dinners, then look for the “spectacular spending sprees” and start saving your allowance again...

Money’s tight and you hate to buy a book that your kids will outgrow – but that won’t happen with “The Coolest Stuff on Earth.” This is something a kid can enjoy at nearly any age.

Youngsters who enjoy books but aren’t reading quite yet will love the full-color pictures here; just beware that there are snakes and such included, which may upset super-sensitive kiddos. Elementary-to-middle-schoolers will love the stories inside these covers, and they might be spurred to want to know more about the many subjects. Teens will appreciate that this book can be dipped into quick, and browsed, and they won’t feel compelled to stick with anything they’ve no interest in.

The bonus here is that you can enjoy this book, too. It’s pure National Geographic stuff, just like you’ve come to expect, like taking an around-the-world adventure trip without leaving your family room. Nope, just leave it on a chair or table, and “The Coolest Stuff on Earth” will be a hot book around your house.

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The Bookworm is Terri Schlichenmeyer. She has been reading since she was 3 years old and never goes anywhere without a book. Terri lives on a hill in Wisconsin with two dogs and 11,000 books.