Flowers in the Gutter tells the true stories of three German youths named Fritz, Gertrude, and Jean who come of age during World War II. Disgusted by Hitler and the Nazi regime, they join groups called “The Edelweiss Pirates.” Edelweiss is a flower that grows in the Alps, and the Pirates saw it as a symbol of freedom. They defy the oppressive German government and come into conflict with the Gestapo, SS, and Hitler Youth. They endure great trials and tribulations, but their spirit is never broken.
The book is quite interesting. The topic is quite timely and hopefully will inspire readers to stand up for what they believe in. At first, I thought it would be written in a narrative style, like a fiction book. However, it wasn’t exactly like that; “semi-narrative” might be a more suitable adjective. I was glad of this, because it was clear that the author was not taking artistic license while still being engaging and readable. While I had no major issue with the book, I did feel that there were slight undertones of criticism toward traditionalism and conservatism, while glossing over issues with Communism. That said, this was not particularly important in the context of the book: youth standing up to Nazism. Also, there was some use of strong language – appropriate situationally, but I felt I should warn of it.
I think the most memorable aspect of the book was the beginning section. The depiction of Germany’s descent into a Fascist nightmare was visceral; I could almost feel the tension and disorder in the air, and I felt very bad for the protagonists, who at this juncture were only children with no real idea of what was going on.
Reviewed by Asher, Libbie Mill Library