The Undertaking by Audrey Magee

The Undertaking

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 horror of the front, it is only the d...

Details The Undertaking

TitleThe Undertaking
Release DateFeb 6th, 2014
PublisherAtlantic Books
GenreHistorical, Historical Fiction, Fiction, War, World War II, Cultural, Germany, Romance

Reviews The Undertaking

  • Diane S ☔
    Men did actually pick and marry woman, just by looking at postcards and choosing. The men received a week long honeymoon furlough, and the woman received the man's pension in the event of his death. I recommend that you listen to the video interview that is included on this novel's homepage, it explains this and much more about the subject of the book.This novel alternates between Peter, stationed on the Eastern front and Katharina waiting in Ber...
  • Barbara
    To state that I "enjoyed" this book would imply a sense of pleasure,but although this was well written, it was a totally disturbing, yet precise account of the war experience. It is viewed from the existence of the wife and families at home and the soldiers fighting for life and limb during the height of battles during WW II. Magee has written of the trials and tribulations of the German people. I have known for some time that not all of these pe...
  • ☮Karen
    Peter Faber is a German on the Russian Front with winter approaching. He gets legally married to a photo of Katharina (yes, that constituted a legal marriage) so he could get a week of leave and Katharina would get his pension should he die. After meeting and falling in love with the real Katharina, he returns to the front a changed, reenergized man with stronger convictions than ever. The parts of the story where Peter and his comrades are walki...
  • Chrissie
    This is a difficult read - difficult because although it is fiction it speaks the truth and without exaggeration. The theme here is the Second World War seen from the perspective of Germans, ordinary Germans. There are an abundance of books relating the events from the winner's point of view, less from the German point of view, and a book such as this is needed. I can recommend both On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood ...
  • Richard
    This is a must read novel for 2014. The most engaging and readable book I have read this year. It is a work of historical force with contemporary insights into loyalty, nationhood and corruption. It triumphs the human spirit and demonstrates that choices are sometimes beyond our reach. It is a story of love without sentimentality. Of war without victory and survival where so many ceased to live and life was lost without thought or in the pursuit ...
  • Marion Husband
    What a compelling, wonderful novel, very very bleak, put I couldn't put it down, read in a day, best novel I've read for a while
  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    Not another World War II novel! Audrey Magee decided to take a different approach, to show the horror in the mundane within a part of the war we don't often talk about - the eastern front. (I get that phrase, horror in the mundane, from an author interview I watched in YouTube.) The novel starts with a woman in Berlin marrying a soldier on the front, where they each marry each other's photo in a symbolic gesture so the man can take honeymoon leav...
  • Brenda
    With the photograph of a woman he had never met crudely attached to a nearby post, German soldier Peter Faber was married by the unit chaplain, while simultaneously in Berlin, Katharina Spinell was married as well – both to each other. Peter had chosen to be married to Katharina to receive honeymoon leave as he was desperate to get away from the fighting, while she knew she would receive his pension should he die in the war. A marriage of conve...
  • Josie
    I can't understand how this book made it onto Amazon's Rising Stars list when it's such a pile of drivel. It's about 90% dialogue, and the sentences are rarely longer than ten words. In another author's hands, the subject (a marriage of convenience during WW2 from a German perspective) could've been interesting, moving, eye-opening -- any number of things. This, though. This was awful. I genuinely have no idea why I read it all the way to the end...
  • Idril Celebrindal
    Kinda bewildered by all the gushing reviews for this. It's like 80% dialog, which would be impressive except...If the only way you are going to reveal your characters is through their speech, then their speech better be revealing. In this book, every character speaks in short, choppy, declarative sentences with identical structure, tone, and vocabulary. The only way to tell who is speaking is based on the character names awkwardly and repeatedly ...
  • Pink
    Modern novels set in WW2 often fall short for me, but not this one. I especially liked the different perspectives of the soldier at war and his wife at home in Berlin, I thought they both had a great story to tell. I was gripped the whole way through and enjoyed every twist and turn that happened, even the brutal ones, as they felt very well researched and realistic to what actually happened. If you like WW2 literature, this is one I recommend.
  • Becky
    wow... so I'm not sure how comfortable I am saying that I liked this book.... Liked really isn't a word I would use to describe my feelings while reading it, or now I'm done. I couldn't stop reading it, and finished it essentially in one sitting, but at no point was it a happy or comfortable experience. The book focuses on Peter and Katherina who marry despite never having met. He is doing it simply to get some 'honeymoon leave' away from the eas...
  • Issicratea
    The Undertaking is an impressive novel, and quite gripping. I found it very hard to stop reading at points. It tells the story of a young German couple who meet and marry during the 2nd WW (or rather marry and then meet—this is an arranged marriage scenario, whereby she gets status as wife of a “hero”, and he gets leave from the Russian front). The novel traces their separate histories through the later stages of the war and its aftermath, ...
  • Emma Flanagan
    In some respects this is a standard war love story. The war bride and the solider spend a short period together, only to be parted for many years and hardships. However unlike most war love stories it is set in Germany, rather than in one of the allied nations, usually England. We get to see the war from the perspective of ordinary Germans, swept along by the power and propaganda of the Third Reich, caught up in events beyond their control.Faber ...
  • Liza
    This book was totally depressing, and really didn't do it for me. From the blurb, I thought it would have a bit more to do with the main characters (Peter and Katharina) relationship. But mostly, it was about the war. War life sucks, just all around. It sucks on the front, and it sucks back at home. This book was even more depressing than I was prepared for. Katharina's home life is oppressive, and she seems to be a bit of a stick-in-the-mud anyw...
  • Peter Cohron
    This book is not being published in the US until September. I got with some friends who were in the UK and asked them to purchase and bring the book back to the US.All the effort was worth it. A great book.It is an anti-war story of Katharina and Peter, two Germans living through WW II, Katharina in Berlin surrounded by ardent Nazis who see she gets what she wants if she follows the Party line, and Peter is a soldier on the Russian front, where t...
  • Jojo
    I had been looking forward to reading this one for a while now, and now I have I sort of feel "Meh"about this book.The book is set in World war two in Berlin, and katherina and Peter make a marriage of pure convenience in order for him to get some leave from the front and so Katherina can receive a war pension as his Wife. This is in no sense a love story. The majority of the book is based on Peter's harsh and grim time he had to ensure working o...
  • Sam Still Reading
    When I saw The Undertaking on the Baileys Prize long list, I thought, ‘Aha! The book with the nice hat!’ (If you’re a long time reader of my reviews, you will know that my cover interests are piqued by fashion and cosmetics – shallow, but true). But this book deserves to be so much more than a book with a nice hat on the cover – it’s a fantastic story, covering a little known part of World War II that comes alive with Magee’s dialog...
  • Lindsay
    In the midst of World War II, Peter Faber and Katherina Spinell embark on an usual marriage – they haven’t even met. Peter takes this step to get ‘honeymoon’ leave from the Eastern front, and he travels to Berlin and meets his wife and her family for the first time. For Katherina, it offers a war pension should he die. Before the war a schoolteacher in Darmstadt, now he is fighting in Russia, for his homeland Germany. Despite the unconven...
  • Beth
    This book is a quick but depressing read because it sheds an unwavering spotlight on the tragedy of war's effect on the human spirit, be it a infantryman slogging in the trenches, a family member at home waiting and wondering, or townspeople caught up in the brutality of rape and soldiers stealing their food for survival. I wish it was required reading for any leader considering taking his country or his group of rebels into war. War has no winne...
  • Nicola
    Every now and then a book comes along that gets under your skin and literally knocks you off your size sixes.“The Undertaking” is such a novel, and it is going to stay with me for a very long time.The visual on the jacket cover of my copy is perhaps deliberately misleading in creating expectations of a rather more romantic style than the tale conveyed within.We are apprised on the back of the book that a marriage of convenience is arranged be...
  • Jo Barton
    Honeymoon leave and the security of a war pension are all that entices Peter Faber and Katharina Spinell to marry. The couple have never met, but war time creates strange bedfellows and Peter desperate for a reprieve from the horror of the Eastern front is willing to take this unseen woman as his wife. Arriving in Berlin in the autumn of 1941 for ten days leave, Peter and Katharina attempt to forge some kind of relationship, they discover that th...
  • Kiwi Begs2Differ ✎
    Promises and hope are what people hang on in times of war, but sometimes a promise can’t be kept, as people have no choice. Sad but beautifully written story about loyalty in its many forms, to one’s country, to fellow soldiers, within a family and between man and woman. Like the other another beautiful WWII book (non –fiction) that I read earlier this year: A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary, this one too deserve...
  • Kathryn
    I have read a lot of stories set in WWI or WWII, but not very many from the point of view of the German people. This book was set in Berlin of WWII and and on the front in Russia.Katharina (in Berlin) marries Peter (in Russia) without having set eyes on each other. He wants the leave afforded to a newly-married man, she wants the security of a widow’s pension if something were to happen to Peter. After a rocky start, they fall in love during th...
  • WarpDrive
    Very nice historical novel about the ordinary German people perspectives and experiences of World War II. It feels very real, and it pulls no punches in representing the characters in all their ambiguities, selfishness, compromises and warped morality, but also in their humanity. It depicts, in all its horror, the banality of evil. The finale is also very credible, and a great conclusion to a story where there is no final salvation nor redemption...
  • Gill
    Three stars, because I thought the subject matter was interesting. However I found the writing style rather simplistic. Maybe I'd have been better off reading a non-fiction book about this.
  • Emjee
    Jediné, čo ma v knihe prekvapilo, bol čudný záver. Ostatné bolo pomerne predvídateľné, ak človek už prečítal nejaké knihy s tématikou vojny. Ale prečítať sa to dá.
  • Anne
    For German soldiers, serving on the Eastern Front, the opportunity of marrying a girl back home gives them 'honeymoon' leave. For the girl he marries - a war pension should her new husband die whilst serving his country. Peter Faber and Katharina Spinell enter into this contract of marriage, never having met each other, but both eager to gain the benefits of an unlikely union. Peter is an ordinary man, a teacher in a small town. Katharina has bee...
  • Lisa
    One can’t help feeling terribly sorry for the characters. Their lives are so blighted by World War II that it seems impossible for them ever again to find any kind of contentment. And they represent real people. There must have been real victims of war exactly like this, ordinary people experiencing the same terrors and hardships.This is Faber, a starving German soldier at Stalingrad, lured across the ice by the promise of food:He realised that...
  • Kat
    Finding books told from the perspective of a German man or woman during World War II is quite rare – both in fiction and non-fiction, but I’ve noticed several of them emerging over the last few years. I can imagine various reasons why these subjects weren’t written about, but it is a shame because it’s a subject with so much potential – and Audrey Magee has chosen a story that tells it from two perspectives – Peter and Katharina.Peter...