Desperate to escape the Eastern front, Peter Faber, an ordinary German soldier, marries Katharina Spinell, a woman he has never met; it is a marriage of convenience that promises honeymoon leave for him and a pension for her should he die on the front. With ten days' leave secured, Peter visits his new wife in Berlin; both are surprised by the attraction that develops between them.
When Peter returns to the horrors of the front, it is only the dream of his wife that sustains him as he approaches Stalingrad. Back in Berlin, Katharina, goaded on by her desperate and delusional parents, ruthlessly works her way into the Nazi party hierarchy, wedding herself, her young husband and their unborn child to the regime. But when the tide of war turns and Berlin falls, Peter and Katharina, ordinary people stained with their small share of extraordinary guilt, find their simple dream of family increasingly hard to hold on to.
A stunning, riveting debut novel in the tradition of Bernhard Schlink's The Reader and Rachel Seiffert's The Dark Room, The Undertaking shines an intense light on history and illuminates the lives of those caught up in one of its darkest chapters.
Audrey Magee worked for 12 years as a journalist, six of them as Ireland Correspondent of The Times, covering the conflict in Northern Ireland, the peace process and the havoc wreaked by the Omagh bomb. She has also written about Ireland for The Guardian and The Observer, and was Dublin stringer for Agence France Presse. Magee lived in Germany for a year between 1986 and 1987, when the men and women who had taken part in the war were living as grandparents, a shroud of silence over their past. She now lives in Wicklow with her husband and three daughters. The Undertaking is her first novel.
Allen and Unwin
Author: Audrey Magee