“In the sleepy town of Bratislava in 1933 a romantic girl falls for a bookseller from Berlin. Greta Weissensteiner, daughter of a Jewish weaver, slowly settles into life with the Winkelmeier clan. The political climate and slow disintegration of the multi-cultural society in Czechoslovakia becomes more complex and affects relations between the couple and their families. The story follows their lot through the war with its torment, destruction and its unpredictability – and the equally hard times after.
From the moment that Greta Weissensteiner enters the bookstore where Wilhelm Winkelmeier works, and entrances him with her good looks and serious ways, I was hooked. But this is no ordinary romance; in fact it is not a romance at all, but a powerful, often sad, Holocaust story. What makes The Luck of the Weissensteiners so extraordinary is the chance Christoph Fischer gives his readers to consider the many different people who were never in concentration camps, never in the military, yet who nonetheless had their own indelible Holocaust experiences. Set in the fascinating area of Bratislava, this is a wide-ranging, historically accurate exploration of the connections between social location, personal integrity and, as the title says, luck. I cared about every one of this novel’s characters and continued to think about them long after I’d finished reading.” — Andrea Steiner, University of California Santa Cruz
The Luck of the Weissensteiners is an epic saga set in wartime Eastern Europe. It follows the lives of two families – one Jewish, one Catholic – and their entwined survival amidst the backdrop of the Second World War; first the fascist then the communist invasion and occupation of Slovakia, and the horror of the consequences of war. The reader is transported to a world of deception, fear, distrust and betrayal, alongside enduring love and family drama. Weissensteiners is a magnificent tale of human survival.
What are the main themes of your book?
“The Luck of the Weissensteiners” is about a Jewish family in Slovakia before, during and after World War II. They are mainly assimilated and not very noticeable at first in the multi-cultural society of post-Habsburg Czechoslovakia until Slovakia becomes independent and a fascist Axis power.
The book is about the ties between us and what binds us together, be that family, religion, national boundaries, friendship or ideology. It is also about what manifold misfortunes there were during that time – not just the obvious victims.
The book is the first in The Three Nations Trilogy, but not a Trilogy of the Twilight kind. It is a series of three books with similar themes, trying to shine a light on the same themes at different times in different Nations.
Who or what inspired your story?
My grandmother was from Sudeten Germany and forced to leave Czechoslovakia after the war. She never spoke much about it and after my father died I became very interested in the family roots and the history of that nation. During my ‘research’ I read many touching stories and I began to have a first idea. Initially closely based on her the plot soon took on a life of its own and new characters appeared and took over.
What do you like best about your primary characters?
Their goodness. I believe that most people have decency and kindness within them, even the really bad ones have trigger points that might bring out better sides of them. I tried to make the characters interesting and unpredictable, only stereotypical where it is necessary, but during the writing they all surprised me by acting differently than I had intended. Those characters that aren’t that nice or good I tried to give other qualities that make you at least feel some kind of sympathy for them. That of course goes only for the primary characters. There have to be bad guys in a book about the war.
What are their worst peculiarities?
Peculiarities are generally a good thing. I like colourful and odd characters in real life as on the pages of a book. People in general often don’t think enough and get carried away either by their stubbornness or because of false pride and of course my heroes are not above that. Wishful thinking and naivety are what got many people of that time in trouble but it makes them also human and likeable in my view. Judge for yourself and let me know.
How does your main character evolve?
Greta grows up and develops from a shy bookworm into a responsible woman, not just because she has to but because she wants to. She doesn’t look back and gets on with her life.
What’s the principal message you want to send to your audience?
Don’t forget what it is to be a human being, be it out of fear or justifiable need or ideological beliefs. And don’t judge the ones who do forget, because not everyone is as strong as they would like to be.
What’s the nicest thing anyone has said about your book?
“Fischer avoids the easy tear jerking sentimentality often used by lesser writers when narrating tales of Jews in the Second World War. His sparse prose hammers home that shameful period in history that much more effectively.”
Where can we purchase it?
Christoph Fischer was born in Germany as the son of a Sudeten-German father and a Bavarian mother. Not a full local in the eyes and ears of his peers he developed an ambiguous sense of belonging and home in Bavaria. He moved to Hamburg in pursuit of his studies and to lead a life of literary indulgence. After a few years he moved on to the UK where lived in Loughborough, London, Brighton and Bath, where he is still resident today. ‘The Luck of The Weissensteiners’ is his first published work. He has written several other novels which are in the later stages of editing and finalisation.