Sophie Scholl and the White Rose by Annette Dumbach and Jud Newborn (2018)

L: 4/10

M: 3/10

J: 4.5/10

Analysis from an image used for desktop wallpaper stretched way beyond its allowed resolution:

Historical non-fiction is an area that I’ve wanted to explore more, so the next pick, Sophie Scholl and the White Rose was a welcome entry. It was a subject that I had not known of previously, so what better way to find out about something than reading a well-crafted and detailed account in a relatively dense novel.

Unfortunately, this might be the best intro to the harrowing tale of the White Rose. The problem begins with the title of this book. Sophie Scholl is front and center on cover and title, yet she feels less than an auxiliary character. The cast of White Rose is complex, and the numbers grow as the war waged on, and this recount doesn’t make it easy to follow along. Maybe I have severe underlying ADHD that this book unlocked, but I could barely focus on keeping the lineage and timeline straight. It was reminiscent of reading something for a high school homework assignment that I couldn’t care less about while birds sang outside the window. 

The troubling part is that the White Rose should be an easy sell. It’s almost noteworthy how buried the actual facts, and more importantly, Sophie is, in everything else this book picks up and throws at you. I would have loved to have a zeroed-in and focused retelling of those fateful years behind enemy lines in Munich and the surrounding areas that the group operated in. It was almost surprising when the long-winded narrative found its way back to one of the dark rooms filled with White Rose members. It’s not that the surrounding history lesson on WWII wasn’t relative; it’s just that pages upon pages bury the reason we all bought a ticket to this thing.

So after finishing this book, The most I can say about the topic is that I’m still interested. There are plenty of other books and visual retellings of the story of White Rose, and I’m sure this is just a poor place to start. When the middle section containing photographs was more informative than the surrounding text, I felt like we got a raw deal.

Analysis from a southern belle hiding her accent:

I really don’t have much to say about this book. It was an EXHAUSTING read. I went into this pick excited to learn more about Sophie Scholl, but sadly she had barely any appearance in the book. This book read just like a text book for the most part. It was difficult to get through for most part. I don’t typically mind an in depth study on a subject, especially one that I think we all need to know more about, but having been promised a book on a group of college kids and it being more of an essay on the background of Nazi Germany and the gestapo. I truly did not enjoy this book even a bit and I hate that because the subject matter is fascinating. I think it is unlikely that I will be reading any further books by this author group, but I highly recommend them if you like reading very thorough accounts of historic events as I feel their research was well done.

Analysis from a quote referenced by someone you admire:

Some today might be surprised that I wasn’t a big reader in my earliest life. Of the two books that got me hooked on the written word, The Devil’s Arithmetic was one. An avalanche of Holocaust novels was consumed since that time: Milkweed and Number the Star in childhood, then NightThe Nightingale, All the Lights We Cannot SeeThe Book Thief on top of ranking Shindler’s List a favorite of my movies. The subject of WW2 and the Holocaust has always interested me. Naturally, I would be drawn to the person of Sophie Scholl as a young woman and activist… someone I could admire!

I did my diligence, or so I thought, to find the best book that would tell her story. This book came as one of the highest recommendations (though I later saw her sister wrote one, perhaps that would be better?) but was sadly disappointed that it did not focus on Sophie, or really many specifics of the White Rose, for very large portions of this book.

When assigning the first portion of this reading to the group, I was enthralled with the book. While it was smacking me over the head with facts, I was lapping it up. I saw it as world-building and foundational to understanding the environment my heroine was brought up in and the path she had to take to build her convictions. But… it just never ended. I felt like I was reading a book that surrounded her but never focused on her. The middle was very, very rough. TONS of information, don’t get me wrong, but more of a cultural study of WW2 than the character study I had signed up for.

The end somewhat redeemed it for me as it had more focus on the White Rose but ultimately fell short of allowing me to enjoy the novel as a whole. In a world where so many diaries and journals are referenced (including Hans’ and Sophie’s both!) I do not understand why this book did not live up to its headline and tell us their story more comprehensively. Despite putting it down 2 different times, I’m much more likely to give Lilac Girls a successive try than read something claiming to be about Sophie for a while.

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