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A Break in the Storm
by Arnold Simon

Published: 2004-10
Paperback : 372 pages
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This historical thriller probes a controversial issue: that World War II could have been prevented! The novel is set in 1936, a time when the specter of Germany's resurgent militarism loomed over Europe. Erich Behrndt is an idealistic young German whose father died in World War I and his mother in ...
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Introduction

This historical thriller probes a controversial issue: that World War II could have been prevented! The novel is set in 1936, a time when the specter of Germany's resurgent militarism loomed over Europe. Erich Behrndt is an idealistic young German whose father died in World War I and his mother in its afermath. Inspired by Hitler's promises of glory, Erich joins his movement, gets a diplomatic job abroad, and has an affair with beautiful and brilliant Lise Hermann. From his superior, Josef Steeg, a man with an ugly past who is consumed with lust and ambition, Erich soon learns the price he has to pay for his idealism. As the last chance to avoid World War II hangs in the balance, the lives of Erich, Lise, and Steeg become entangled with the lives of Andre Laroche, who seeks revenge for his family's massacre, and Stefan Mueller, a world-famous physicist facing persecution. Torn between these raging forces. Erich, Lise, Andre, and Mueller each face decisions that may change all their lives forever.

Editorial Review

No editorial review at this time.

Excerpt

Excerpt #1

Steeg's demeanor throughout this exchange had not revealed the full depth of the jealousy he had instantly formed towards Erich Behrndt. This jealousy stemmed from the simple fact that Behrndt had everything that Steeg coveted but did not have, including youth, good looks, personal charm, a gift for communicating with people, and now, evidently, the very job in Brussels that Steeg had applied for.

Steeg was consumed by two passions. The first and stronger of these was the desire for power and success. The second was lust, not the simple kind of lust that could be satiated by prostitutes-he had long ago lost interest in his wife, and had to settle most of the time for prostitutes-but a lust that demanded nothing less than copulation with the most exquisite sort of mistress, in fact, as Steeg dreamed of it, with a goddess. Prostitutes, common ones, and the women he craved were to him the same, yet paradoxically completely different. They both took you from A to B, but oh, the trip was all the difference! In Steeg's imagination, the one was as different from the other as sitting up all night on a hard wooden bench in a crowded third-class train compartment was from the blue wagons-lits he had glimpsed speeding by in the night where people slept on luxurious sheets in opulent private compartments and dined on tables set with linen, crystal, and expensive silver.

These two desires, of power and of lust, did not reside in separate parts of Steeg's brain. His sexual ambitions were merely another aspect of his craving for power; women to him were not there to be cherished, but to be mastered.

It galled him particularly that the job Behrndt was slated for would be such a sinecure. It would mean living in relative luxury, and in Belgium of all places. Some of Steeg's proudest moments had taken place in Belgium during the war. Steeg also knew that the job in Brussels would mean women, the kind of women he wanted.

Although Steeg had not known until a few moments ago that Behrndt even existed, he already hated the cocky young swine.

Excerpt #2

A bell was ringing, somewhat like a doorbell, but far away. Then some voices. It did not seem to concern her. Lise started to roll over, but the voices got louder. She recognized one of them as belonging to the middle-aged man who had let her in. She heard him shout, "You have no right!" Then a louder voice gave some sort of command which she could not make out. Then there were footsteps stomping down the hall, coming closer. Then a knock on her door.

"Who is it?" Lise said, through the door.

"It's me." She recognized the middle-aged man's voice.

"You'd better come out."

"What is it?" His voice sounded strained. "You'd better come."

She got up and opened the door. The man stood before her, looking to one side with a terrified expression. She followed his eyes. A couple of meters down the hall stood a uniformed policeman, his gun drawn and pointed at the owner. Behind him stood a second policeman.

"What is this?" Lise said. "What do you want?"

"Lise Hermann?" said the policeman with the gun.

"Yes?"

"You are under arrest. Come with us."

"What do you mean? What do you want with me?"

"Criminal charges. You will find out."

Everything — her miraculous escape, Hilda's unexpected but providential help, these kind people's efforts, the thoughtful note from André — it was going to be as if none of that had ever happened.

Lise turned to the policemen. "This is a mistake," she said, almost in a shout. Her face was flushed. They paid no attention to what she was saying.

"What is this nonsense?" she asked the middle-aged man.

He was staring at the gun still pointed at him. He looked helpless.

"Stop them!"

"I can't."

"You can't? Why not? It's a mistake. You know it."

"Can't you see? It's the police. I tried, but they have orders. I'm sure you can get it straightened out at the police station."

"I won't go. They have no authority. I'm just here on a visit. You have no authority." She was shouting.

The second policeman grabbed her elbow.

"Let me go! Let me go!" She demanded. She was struggling to get away from him. For a moment she almost seemed to break loose from him, but his hand tightened on her elbow like a vise. Her face had turned puffy and red, and she was kicking him.

At the top of her lungs Lise yelled, "Let me go! Let me go, damn you! You have no right!"

The policeman jerked Lise off balance, pulled her out of the doorway, and pushed her down the hallway to the front door. Lise never stopped struggling, but he kept his tight grip on her elbow. Finally the officer pulled Lise out into the street, as she still fought vigorously, and then he shoved her into the back of the police car.

From inside the house came a loud sound, like a gun being fired. Then the policeman with the gun came out, still holding the weapon. He put it back in its holster.

"What was that?" asked the other policeman.

"I took care of him."

"What in hell for? You didn't need to do that."

"He argued with us. People like that are dangerous." view abbreviated excerpt only...

Discussion Questions

A Guide for Book Groups:

1. The conflict between Erich Behrndt’s principles and the oath he has sworn confronts him with a series of agonizing decisions. What do his responses to these reveal about his character? What change or changes, if any, does his character undergo as a result?

2. Some readers have referred to Lise Hermann’s story in part as a coming-of-age story. Do you agree? Do the particular crises she is faced with bring about more changes in her than just coming of age, and if so, how?

3. Is Josef Steeg’s character absolutely evil, or does it reveal some humanity? What does the scene in the car where he “pleads his case” with Lise tell about him? Does the cruel treatment he suffered in his childhood explain any of his actions, or are they just excuses?

4. What stages does the relationship between Lise and Erich go through? In what ways does Steeg impact that relationship?

5. Did your attitude towards any of the characters evolve as the novel progressed? Did you find yourself identifying with (or in opposition to) any of them?

6. Do you see any parallels between the stories of the fictional characters in the novel and the historical story against which these play out, and if so what are those parallels?

7. It has been said that the German people were Hitler’s first victims, because of the calamities he led them into. Similarly, do you see the passions or desires of any of the characters in this novel as metaphors for the passions or desires of the German people or the people in the Allied countries, and if so in what way?

8. Does the historical story told in this novel contain any lesson for today’s world? If so, what lesson? If not, why not?

9. If you had been the one to make the decision that faced the Allies on March 7, 1936, what would you have done, and how would you have justified it to your constituency?

10. Do you feel that those Germans who were portrayed in the story as supporting Hitler were portrayed fairly?

11. Do you feel that those Germans who were portrayed in the story as opposing Hitler were portrayed accurately?

12. Do you think there must have been other Germans who joined the Nazi Party and found themselves in the same kind of situation as Erich?

13. A Break in the Storm has attracted notice from two groups, those interested in history and those who are looking for a good story. Which of these aspects of the book drew more of your attention?





Notes From the Author to the Bookclub

No notes at this time.

Book Club Recommendations

Member Reviews

Overall rating:
 
 
  "Absorbing WWII character study"by Zebra215 (see profile) 08/28/06

Arnold Simon has effectively given us the history of WWII based upon "players" lives. The history of WWII is personalized, giving the reader an opportunity to view the war based upon individuals, not... (read more)

 
  "A great WWII novel"by kcpiekos (see profile) 06/21/06

I enjoyed putting characters to the stories that I have heard from my Dad who grew up in German occupied France during the war. The characters were interesting and overall I thought it was entertaining.... (read more)

 
  "We thought the book started out great, but had some dislikes"by cmstab (see profile) 04/28/06

Our group felt the opening of the book was excellent in generating an interest in reading on. We also appreciated the description of the events during World War I and the explanation of the Treaty of... (read more)

 
  "Good information about post WW I Europe, but sometimes difficult to follow."by sachatz (see profile) 08/24/06

The opening of the book was captivating, but it was somewhat confusing jumping from present to past and back again without clear delineation of times. I found myself not very interested in the main characters... (read more)

 
  "Confusing..."by Isis_2 (see profile) 05/18/06

I received this book and thought it would be very interesting. Instead, I found it extremely confusing. The author jumps scenes and charcters like the little frog jumps cars in the game Le... (read more)

 
  "I thoroughly enjoyed this book."by kcarlsen (see profile) 04/10/06

I got caught up in the characters and I thought it might be confusing with the times changing but it was easy to follow and entertaining. It was a new look at World War 1 and 2. All in all, it was just... (read more)

 
  "Excellent Read."by italianprincess (see profile) 03/11/06

Author, Arnold Simon, tackles this subject brilliantly in his novel, "A Break in the Storm". It is a particularly interesting way to learn about this period in history as it approaches the t... (read more)

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