Castle on the Border

Castle on the Border

By: Margot Benary-Isbert
Published by: Harcourt, Brace & World, Inc
Publication Date: 1956

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Leni, orphaned and homeless in postwar Germany, seemed older than she really was, for she had learned through bitter necessity to take care of herself. She was determined that one day she would be a great actress like her mother, and her chief ambition was to study under a good director.

When Aunt Friderike and her husband escaped from East Germany in 1948 and came back to live in their derelict and ancient family castle just over the East-West border, Leni agreed to live with them only because there was a group of young actors living in a nearby town with whom she hoped to work. When the theater group was in desperate need of permanent quarters, Leni persuaded Aunt Rexie to let them live in the castle on the understanding that they would help rehabilitate it. Later, she learned, through the village doctor, that the cellars of the castle were used as a way station by people crossing the border from one zone to another, and she was drawn into helping these desperate folk. Yet she never lost sight of her goal, and she shied away from too deep emotional attachments to family or friends.

Gradually the old castle became a real home for the oddly assorted group it sheltered; gradually the Castle Theater Company began to gain recognition beyond the villages in which it played; and gradually Leni began to sense that there is more to life than realizing on'e personal ambition. Faced eventually with the choice of furthering her own career or staying on at the castle to bear her share of responsibility, she discovered that to give freely of oneself is the most important thing, that giving is the secret of living.

Mrs. Benary, whose Rowan Farm and The Ark have won wide recognition, is at her best in this exceptional novel. Rich, complex, many-faceted, Castle on the Border gives a vivid picture of postwar Germany, and in particular of the problems of young people trying to establish a new way of life. There is depth and breadth in this story, the surge and recession of life through the seasons of the year and the seasons of man. There is courage and strength, humor and even gaiety, and always a sense of looking toward the future with hope.

From the dust jacket

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