Heidegger’s Glasses by Thaisa Frank

Thaisa Frank’s WWII novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, combines philosophy, mystery, war, and more, woven with crisp, no-nonsense dialogue and just enough detailed description to tantalize the reader to continue the journey.  The story centers on Operation Mail, Briefaktion, a Nazi program to entice Jews to volunteer for relocation by sending letters from their taken relatives.  The letters are actually written by a group of Scribes pulled from the lines of people being relocated, who have special language skills.  A special set of orders, possibly from Goebbels, are sent to the Compound for a philosopher to answer Heidigger‘s letter to his Jewish optometrist Asher Englehardt, who was sent to Auschwitz and is probably dead.

“Hans Ewigkeit had originally planned to line the mine with thick brick walls.  But even before losing Stalingrad, the Reich was pinched for money.  So instead of brick walls, the Compound had thin pine walls covered with a single layer of plaster.  Workers had added five coats of paint.  But the Compound was a flimsy shell:  Scribes put their hands on their ears when they wanted to think.  Mueller had worn earmuffs.”  (page 81)

Enter Elie Schacten, a woman with two lives and names.  She writes some of the letters, but most importantly has permission to be outside after curfew and uses that to her advantage to save those she can from the oppressive Nazi regime.  She is caught between her lies and the ambitious Stumpf who considers himself in charge of the Compound as well as her affection for Lodenstein, the leader of the Compound.  Will the orders to write a response to Hiedigger’s letter expose the Compound for its lackadaisical work and Elie’s operations to rescue Jews, or will the orders be another means of saving helpless souls?

“Light snow began to fall — swirls of white on grey.  The streets widened, narrowed, widened again, expanding and contracting, as though they were breathing.  Nothing felt quite real to Elie — not the sky, or the air, or a coffeehouse where customers drank from incongruously large cups of ersatz coffee.  People hurried by, surrounded by pale grey air — the only thing that seemed to hold them together.  Elie passed a muddy street with a chain-link fence followed by a row of prosperous houses.  The town was breaking up, and she felt she was breaking up with it.  It began to snow thickly, surrounding everyone in white.  We’re bound by veils, Elie thought, fragile accidents of cohesion.” (page 95)

Heidigger’s Glasses is more than a philosophical journey, it takes a look at how the ordinary can become extraordinary.  Each object can have a hidden meaning or take on the life of a memory that will have to serve as a lifeline in the most dire of moments.  Like Hiedigger’s glasses help the philosopher “fall out of the world,” each character must find that moment in time when they fall out of the reality they fear and into the reality that they create.  Frank has taken the time to weave a complex story during a tumultuous time in history, and her novel accomplishes that goal and more.  Her characterizations are unique and dynamic, and the plot is unraveled slowly by the reader who takes an unexpected journey to discover the mettle of even the most ordinary individual.

About the Author:

Photo by Chris Hardy; www.chrishardyphoto.com

Thaisa Frank has written three books of fiction, including A Brief History of Camouflage and Sleeping in Velvet (both with Black Sparrow Press, now acquired by David Godine). She has co-authored a work of nonfiction, Finding Your Writers Voice: A Guide to Creative Fiction, which is used in MFA programs.  Her forthcoming novel, Heidegger’s Glasses, is coming out this fall with Counterpoint Press.  Foreign rights have already been sold to ten countries.

***Thanks to the author, TLC Book Tours, and Counterpoint for sending me a review copy. ***

Please check out the other stops on the tour.

Giveaway information:  1 Copy for 1 lucky reader in the U.S. or Canada

1.  Leave a comment about what historical period you love to read about most.

2.  Blog, Tweet, Facebook, etc., for a second entry and leave a link in the comments.

Deadline Dec. 3, 2010, 11:59PM EST.

This is my 57th book for the 2010 New Authors Reading Challenge.


  1. Looking at previous books I’ve read, I’d have to go with WWII era as one of my favorite time periods to read about. If there was ever a time for a character to step out of his or her comfort zone and into history, this was it.

    amber at amberstults dot com

  2. I love reading about early 20th century! Maybe cuz their are people still alive to remember it.

    twinmomx5 at gmail dot com

  3. I love reading fiction and non-fiction about WWII and am especially fascinated with literature of the Holocaust. This book is on my to-read list and I would love to win a copy — thanks for the opportunity.


  4. I like to read about the 1800s, but the 1st half of the 20th century intrigues me too.

  5. Patricia Boyle says

    I love to read about the 1940s since I was born in that decade. Thank you for offering this contest.

  6. I’ve read wonderful reviews about this book and thanks so much for adding another great review of this book. I’ve added it to my wishlist and can’t wait to read it and am thrilled to have a chance to win a copy! My favorite era is WWII and the holocaust so this book is perfect for that era. I do love to read about the Victorian era as well so many era’s that I enjoy reading it’s hard to pick one.

  7. Hi Serena, fantastic review and well worth the wait! The story sounds so original and thought provoking. I’m really happy you enjoyed it. Thanks so much for being on the tour!

  8. Sandra K321 says

    I would say my favorite is the Civil War era in the US and Victorian era in England.

  9. What a great review of this one!!!

  10. I love almost all historical fiction, even relatively recent historical fiction, but if I have to choose, I would go with the Elizabethan era.

    Thanks for the chance to win!


  11. Wow, this sounds like a great book – yet another I’d like to read. Don’t enter me though. Too many books on the shelf as it is.

  12. Sounds like a very interesting, and original, WWII novel. Great review, I’m putting this one on my wish list.

  13. Wonderful review, Serena! I first read about his book on Anna’s terrific book blog.
    I am currently quite interested in learning more about WWII, mostly through fiction/historical fiction.
    I will add this giveaway to my blog’s sidebar: suko95.blogspot.com
    Thanks for hosting this great giveaway! 🙂

  14. I love reading about the WWII era both here and abroad.
    Love & Hugs,

  15. I loved this book — moving but not, like, misery-inducing.

  16. Beth Hoffman says

    This novel sounds terrific! I’m fond of the 1920s to 1990s, but really any era is fine as long as it’s a good read.

  17. Glad you enjoyed this book, too. We’ll have to discuss after the holiday. I’ve added the giveaway to my sidebar for you.

  18. Christine-Team JC says

    I really love reading American Civic War novels. This book has been on my wish list! Thanks! schaefer7382 at aol dot com

    • If you like to read about the American Civil War, a blog I host with my friend — War Through the Generations — is likely to host a year-long reading challenge on the American Civil War next year (2011) if you’d like to join us. I hope you’ll consider the challenge for your reading in the new year

  19. This sounds like an amazing story. Wonderful review!

  20. I really enjoy novels set during both the English and American Civil Wars, but have also read lots of WWII era novels. This one sounds interesting, certainly a new and original plot line. Thanks for the giveaway.

    • If you like to read about the American Civil War, a blog I host with my friend — War Through the Generations — is likely to host a year-long reading challenge on the American Civil War next year (2011) if you’d like to join us.

  21. I like to read about the Victorian Era. This book looks good, thanks for the review and giveaway.


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