Black Eagle Inn: Christoph Fischer
One family tied together in a uniquely connected way as one woman would control the destiny of so many.
Anna Stockmann was a forceful, direct and controlling woman who from the start knew how to manipulate her siblings and pit one against he other in order to get the intended results she wanted. Within her family she would create a hierarchy of those youngsters that would advance in her favor, become part of her empire when older or feel the wrath of her tongue and discipline. Compliance was her way and with the help of her brother Hans Ulrich whose family multiplied in size allowing her help on her farm and restaurant, Anna was born to control, lead and take charge. Marrying a naïve, yet caring young woman named Magdalena, Anna was able to manipulate her as well as getting her brother to allow his children to help out on her farm hoping to groom a possible heir. From the moment she was ten years old and even younger she and her brother had a special relationship but it was his children, her nieces and nephews that provided what she needed. Black Eagle Inn and farm owned by her family, the Hinterberger’s became hers when she managed to convince her father that her brother Paul was not up to the job causing him to leave and father’s failing health and no one else in sight, allowed Anna to take over after making sure she eliminated the competition. But, Magdalena had one daughter born in 1940, named Maria that would change things for everyone. While one nephew named Marcus was bold, smart and took on a role in her restaurant and enjoyed people, her other nephew Lukas won her over in a different way. Helping her reconcile the books and correcting her errors in math, they developed an even closer bond than Marcus who we learn had another talent not befitting a young man that Anna preferred to discount. Maria is quite different and a rivalry ensues between her and her cousin. The time period is the Second World War, Hans Ulrich has an administrative job and with his pragmatic attitude and diligence the family seems to be able to flourish but he never seems happy.
Black Eagle Inn is the coveted goal of Markus and the farm the others in the family. Heimkirchen seemed unblemished by the war yet Anna Stockmann kept the reigns tight as she kept the business in tact until something happened that would change it all. Learning about the fate of her husband Herbert she was bent on carrying forward until she learned where he was and if he survived the prison camps. But, her family was bold, hard working and each of her nieces and nephews allowed to work on the farm or restaurant were given food as a reward for their toil. But, Markus was smart, cunning and knew how to play Anna and everything he wanted and did would create a rift between him and the rest of the family and a rivalry ensued that would span decades. Lukas was bright, innovative and would help Anna with the books and records until Herbert mysteriously reappears. Within the spectrum of this multi-themed novel we revisit Hans-Ulrich and his wife who are devote churchgoers and who use religion as their main focus and force in life. The Catholic community and Hans-Ulrich seem divorced in many respects from the harsh realties of the war and the politics. Anna watches this as she and her brother also drift apart and Anna takes it upon herself to teach his children the needed skills to survive in the world. The old ways are what sustains him but the war brings out qualities that most families today have but within this family unit, hate, deceit, prejudice, greed, resentment, power and control are just some of the themes author Chistoph Fischer brilliantly explores. Anna Stockmann conniving, cunning and shrewd is equally matched and outmatched by her nephew Markus whom she turned into more than a replica of herself. Lukas, the once brilliant and resourceful young man watches, learns and realizes that although Markus appears to have a secret he does want revealed, a friend that is helping him with his deals but no one really knows the true sources of his of his contacts eventually would turn into another replica of the same.
As the war has finally ended Germany suffers many sharp blows and the advent of the different party lines tears the war torn nation apart ever more. Recovering from the shame, having to restructure and trying to find a present that would not mirror its past, Germany forms different party lines and Hans Ulrich is in the center or thick of the Christian Party and his religious values dictates his actions as he learns the truth behind what is happening at the farm, his children are begin subjected to the wrong ways and Markus, Lukas, Otto, Martin and Maria are requested to return home but not without alienating himself from his sister who has done so much for them all. Markus, adopted by Anna remains and the fate of the rest is quite interesting as you will learn. The story is told from the viewpoints of each character given a chapter in order for readers to understand their influence upon the final outcome, the need for their story to be told and to follow in a chronological order the outcome of what happens to the Hinterberger family. As Hans Ulrich rises in the party, Markus finds his solace in working with Anna but when Herbert returns things take on a dramatic change as he becomes rude, boisterous, demanding, abusive and tyrannical also trying to alienate her from Helga, the servant whose loyalty to Anna goes above and beyond the definition of the word. As Herbert becomes enveloped in the family’s business, takes on the books, uses Lukas as his confidant and helper he hopes to learn more about Markus, his adopted son, take control over Anna but little does he suspect that two forces are working in opposition of each other but the final outcome will unite them in quite a different way. With Markus running the Inn and Lukas the farm things seemed okay until Hans Ulrich and his wife demanded the return of their children. With the aid of his children he was happier than ever for a while until something drastically changes and he once again needs the support of his sister to help.
Maria the golden child once part of Anna’s life takes on a different role with her father changing her views, ideals and thinking. to support his Christian doctrines. But, the story is so complex that is has much more to offer as Herbert’s fate is sealed in a different way, Markus dallies and meets a young Italian and together they fill ten years of their lives away from the farm and the restaurant but not before he does something that no one will ever forgive. Germany saw great changes from 1940-1976 as the author creates this timeline of events for readers introducing the Italian and Turkish immigrants within the storyline and helping readers to understand how they infiltrated the job market ten years after the new right wing party came into place in Germany. Politics plays a heavy part in this novel and although the war is over Han Ulrich position changes, his attitude is quite staunch and as a result he becomes more like a relic within his own party and hidden within his own mind not able to release his anger, tension or understand the new ways. The years pass and Maria divorces her alliance with her father as she meets a young Turkish man, falls in love and is now no longer considered part of the family. Each character is driven by greed, the need for control, power and money in his/her own way. Holding it steady and all together is Helga. Getting to know more about Marcus the fact that he is gay and how he struggles with his own identity sort of humbles him in the end as the cousins reunite, the old wounds are opened and the end will surprise readers.
Families are quite often unique in their own structure and abilities to change, cope and address the changing times as a daughter opposes her father and the political arena is once again in the limelight just what will the outcome be when Hans Ulrich fights for his position, trying to keep what little pride in place and hopefully find some peace within himself. Before the anger and rage win out what will happen next as we see Lukas following in a similar path of destruction.
When the end draws near we hear different voices, learn more about Maria’s rise in politics, Hans Ulrich’s decline and the opening of a gay bar that Markus established with the help of a childhood friend and his wife in Munich. When prejudices, fears, old feelings, power, greed, hate and suspicion cloud your eyes, wisdom and goals they win out. How far will you go to win? What is the final fate of the Black Eagle Inn, the farm and what happens when the players meet, the final meal is served and the end result you won’t believe. Read this powerfully compelling novel about the Hinterberger and decide: is it really any different from what you read about in the papers today? One woman who controlled it all. Two men: Markus: Lukas: Two men vying for the attention of one woman. One woman who manipulated everything and one family torn apart by greed. Black Eagle Inn: A must read and so many lessons to be learned: Family loyalty, deceit, lies, deceptions, fear, hate, prejudice, the political scene and what happens when religion overtakes your life and the rest is clouded?
Fran Lewis: Reviewer