Win­nie and Wolf: A Novel

A.N. Wil­son
  • Review
By – January 13, 2012
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.

Discussion Questions