In the unforgettable opening scene of Leni Riefenstahl’s magnificent film, The Triumph of the Will, Hitler descends in a biplane from out of the clouds with the sun shining brilliantly behind him to crowds wildly acclaiming the arrival of their messiah. A.N. Wilson captures much of that same anticipation and adoration in his new novel about a young girl looking for hope and redemption and finding it in a relationship with Hitler. Orphaned in England, Winnie eventually marries Siegfried Wagner, becoming the daughter-in-law of the famous composer. A lover of Teutonic culture and a passionate Germanophile, Winnie throws herself into the management of Wagner’s operas and his house in Bayreuth. Like Wagner’s family, she looks forward to a day when Germany will rise from the ashes of defeat in World War I and once again be a powerful Volk. As Winnie and the Wagners search for their Parsifal, the mythical young prince who will lead the nation on this quest for restoration, she meets young Adolf Hitler (Wolf ) and discovers not only a kindred spirit but also the new Parsifal. Told through the eyes of the secretary at Wahnfried, the Wagner house at Bayreuth, the love story of Winnie and Wolf serves as the setting for questions about the nature of hope and the character of love and morality (is our capacity to love another person often accompanied by an inability to notice their flaws and the traits that cause the person to be unloved by others?). Too often, however, Winnie and Wolf become static characters who are simply mouthpieces for the philosophical ideas in which Wilson embeds the couple’s story.
Henry L. Carrigan, Jr. writes about books for Publishers Weekly, Library Journal, BookPage, and ForeWord. He has written for numerous newspapers including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Charlotte Observer, The Cleveland Plain Dealer, The Orlando Sentinel, The Christian Science Monitor, and The Washington Post Book World.