The Day We Had Hitler Home
"The Great war ends, as it began, with military blunders. A field ambulance station is being evacuated when a young soldier, blinded by gas during the fighting, joins the wrong queue. Gas blisters in his throat prevent him from telling anyone that his name is Adolf Hitler, private first-class, of the Sixteenth Bavarian Infantry, Reserve Division, or that he is headed for Germany.
"The year is 1919. At Versailles, Australia has just signed a peace treaty destined to ruin Germany and create the conditions in which Nazism would thrive. Meanwhile, amid the celebrations at a remote fishing port in New South Wales, the steamer bringing Australian war heroes home also delivers the blinded Hitler. Here he meets Audrey McNeil, aspiring filmmaker and desparate opponent of her sister Sybil. Brief though his visit is, he changes Audrey's life.
"But is the stranger really who he claims to be?
"The Day We Had Hitler Home as much verbal cinema as a novel - is an audacious and intriguing story of a young woman's awakening to politics, to love, and to a new age sweeping across the world like a maelstrom."
In the hush of early light the girl stirs. A man watches her. Ready to swoop, poised and focused, he inspects every languorous detail..In silence. The grey veil of daylight strengthens resolving itself into shadows and glossy surfaces, at one stroke defining the clear-cut edge of wardrobe and the silver sheen on a mirror's history of darkness. She shivers in her sleep. The predator reduces these factors to a decision. His moment has come. Never taking his eye off her, he raises the movie camera he has brought with him. The camera lifts slower than the welling light. He himself is silent in the silent morning while settling it in position on his shoulder. So, we watch him. And he watches her, transfixed by the female body (troubled head, outflung arm on a script of rumpled sheets, her rucked up nightie revealing one smooth thigh), a miracle to be preserved in timelessness. His camera, an oblong of varnished wood, holds steady. Its shiny, owl's-eye lens intent.
The faint, surreptitious spooling of secrets begins.
From the Macmillan paperback edition, 2000.
This novel was shortlisted for the 2001 Miles Franklin Award.
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Last modified: January 30, 2006.