Verdict: Part diary, part travelogue, and part time capsule, the book will appeal to anyone interested in exploring the mindset of postwar America at the dawn of the 1960s.
David Streiber is a 19 year-old enlistee from Brooklyn, who joins the U.S. Army in 1957 as a means to escape his sheltered life in the Jewish Ghettos of Brooklyn, New York.
“Soldiers’ Field: A Novel of Postwar Germany”, by novelist Raymond M. Weinstein, is a sprawling coming-of-age tale—chronicling the maturation of an inexperienced New Yorker in his eager search for sex, travel and adventure. It is also the tale of an American cultural identity in transition at the cusp of the 1960s, one still struggling to come to terms with relationships between the sexes, religions and races.
Warned of the dangers of coming home with a “Nazi Schatzie,” David, or Dovidl, as his Jewish clan back in Coney Island still calls him, is obsessed with getting laid. The story begins stateside with late-night sexual encounter, our hero’s first, with a “puertorriquena” working girl his buddy arranges for him. This first conquest sets the stage for his overseas quest for the ultimate “schtup.”
David categorizes the German Frauleins he pursues into three groups: those good German girls who would never consider dating an American GI; those good-time girls who eagerly date GIs for love and sustenance; and those untouchable colorblind gals who deign to date Black GIs.
During his tour of duty, David pursues and explores the sexual boundaries of each of these three types, and learns the rules of class and race. He does his best to put notches on his belt, entering into first a casual tryst with a homely bar girl, and then a more serious relationship with a Fraulein clearly looking for a husband. He is enamored with, but avoids a Bavarian beauty with a black boyfriend, and lusts after an aloof maiden who represents his ideal physical specimen. While willing to pay for sex, David draws the line when it comes to the mixing of the races – and strictly avoids any Schatzie who would go black. Struggling with these moral and ethical dilemmas, our soldier defines himself and his future. The soldier leaves Germany, but Germany never leaves the soldier.
This thinly veiled autobiographical tale provides an authentic window into one man’s experience in postwar Germany fifteen years after the end of World War II. As a first novel, “Soldiers’ Field” is at times both clunky and self-indulgent (with alliterations and metaphors that go on well beyond their cleverness), but there is also much to like. One gets a real sense of what it felt like for this young Jewish American GI to live, work and love in the cradle of Naziism, and how those experiences defined his destiny and colored his future life’s perspective forever. Part diary, part travelogue, and part time capsule, the book will appeal to anyone interested in exploring the mindset of postwar America at the dawn of the 1960s.
Reviewed by David Rheins for IndieReader
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