“A love story of extraordinary intensity.” That is the quote on the front cover of my edition of Daniela Krien’s Someday We’ll Tell Each Other Everything (Irgendwann Werden Wir Uns Alles Erzählen). I don’t much agree with that. Yes, there is a love story, and it might be somewhat unusual in that it involves a 16-year-old girl, Maria, and a 40-year-old man, Henner. But I didn’t find it particularly intense. If it were nothing but this love story, I would shelf this maybe as YA and be more or less done with it. But thankfully, there is much more to this book, and I ended up really enjoying it.
First, the prose is wonderful. It is sparse, but lyrical. I loved Krien’s descriptions of nature, life on a farm, and the attention to little details that are often overlooked. Overall, it reads very smoothly in German, and thanks to the translation by Jamie Bulloch, it reads very well in English, too.
Second, the story is set in 1990, between the fall of the Wall and the reunification of Germany. Maria’s affair with Henner is set against the very unique feelings and events that came with this particular time in German history. I found it fascinating to read about them from an East German perspective.
In the summer of 1990, I was a few years younger than Maria, living in West Germany. We recognized tourists who had come from the East, and I know we stared. How did they make the drive in those odd-looking cars that adults joked were made out of cardboard? How could they be so fascinated by ordinary produce like bananas and oranges? Why would they spend their welcome money on brand-name sneakers? When reunification approached, I heard my parents discuss skeptically how the country could possibly pay for bringing the East up to Western standards—just think of all those cobblestone roads! (This was something that was definitely not much discussed by politicians at the time.)
Maria told me about her feelings from the opposite viewpoint: how uncomfortable she was on her few short trips to the West where people were staring at her; how bewildering it was to suddenly have such a variety of things to purchase; and how uncertain many people felt with their country suddenly ceasing to exist and their ways of doing things threatened by Western standards.
Even though I was not entirely convinced by Maria and Henner’s love story, I did appreciate Maria’s character. She is a young person trying to find her way, the uncertainty everyone feels at that age further heightened by all the options suddenly available to her. I read about her with a little bit of nostalgia for my own 16-year-old self. And the story certainly ended with a bang that I did not see coming.
If you’d like to find out about that end and you live in the United States, let me know in the comments. I will give away my English edition to one lucky reader, since this book deserves a wider audience.