‘The Women at Hitler’s Table’, by Rosella Postorino.
Received this beauty of a read for Christmas, courtesy of myself, as the general method of present giving in the Cool household entails going shopping with the purchaser and placing the wanted item in their basket. Perhaps not romantic, but it’s a fool-proof procedure for acquiring the exact piece of clutter you’ve had your eye of for weeks!
Clutter isn’t really the right word for this book, which is why I will allow Hubby to continue using it (keeps him happy), whilst I switch back to the word beauty.
The story is told from the point of view of Rosa, a young woman ordered to join a band of food tasters. In spite of the man she is serving, Hitler, it’s still incredibly easy to empathise with Rosa. Like the other women in the same role, she has no choice about her situation. Newly-married, she is living in Austria with her in-laws. Her husband is fighting at the front, and following the death of her mother the blitzing of Berlin, Rosa has no safe-haven to return to. Austria was supposed to be her safe-haven; unfortunately, her in-laws live in close proximity to Hitler’s hidden bunker, and Hitler is becoming increasing paranoid. Hence, the local women have been called up to serve; Rosa and her companions have to act as human guinea pigs, tasting all dishes cooked up by the chef, before Hitler will partake of the same.
Under the daily threat of death by poisoning, Rosa ploughs on, taking her wages home to help out the in-laws. The reader’s empathy dips a little when Rosa embarks on a love affair with a Nazi officer.
At the same time the reader recognises that, like most people, Rosa is just doing what she can to survive; creating her own little bubble of space to live in, whilst cutting out the bits of existence she’d rather not dwell on, the bits she has no control over, the bits that would drag her down so low she would never re-emerge.
Rosa is able to step outside her role and see Hitler for what he is, an actor, a fraud with a ‘glued on’ moustache, performing his own little ‘cabaret act’. Rosa is just another member of his audience, a reality show, in which she is forced to participate, and to laugh at just the right moments to make the whole thing seem plausible. In Rosa’s words, then the more she ‘adapted, the less human’ she ‘felt’.
I have no wish to give too much of the story away, but will leave you, my own audience, with the following food-for-thought sentence:
‘Hitler nourished me, and that nourishment could kill me.’
And on that note, I’m sitting in Prado Lounge, and could really do with a kick of serotonin to cheer me up – any spinach on the menu? Eggs? Avocado?
Is it safe? Can I speak with the Chef?
“Excuse me! Excuse me, please … can you just take a bite from this before I …
Copyright owned by Jay Cool, January 2020
Silly-Savvy Rating: 4/5
Reviewed book available to purchase from Waterstones (if you choose to purchase via the link, Jay Cool, will receive a small commission from the seller).