The Devil Comes to Bonn by Jennifer Harris
Published July 26, 2023
A novel about moral ambiguity that reflects the #MeToo movement
2015. Stella, a professor and historian, comes to the beautiful and ancient city of Bonn, Germany, for a World Heritage conference. With things at home tearing at the seams, she is determined to pretend all is well. At least, until she is assaulted over a trivial matter by another delegate, Professor Giovanni Costa. Bewildered, Stella descends into a shadowy observer, slowly becoming an obsessed stalker. When she meets the elderly Hildegard on a park bench by the River Rhine she is drawn into her wartime story, little seeing the similarities to her own situation.
1941. Hildegard, new wife to Kurt and student of architecture, surrenders to the inevitable; she needs a job for them to pay their rent. Interviewing for a hotel post, she does not realise her life now is off course, running on a track destined to collide with the sinister Fuhrer himself. Although repulsed, she must play along with the Fatherland ideals—to show anything but enthusiasm would not only leave her without a job but probably worse circumstances. She is thrust into the role of maid to Hitler in the infamous room 106 in a hotel he visited more than 70 times. She is no longer able to hide away from reality in her studies. Moving forward is the only option, no matter how dark it gets.
With the story switching between 2015 and 1941, Stella and Hildegard face questions of survival, identity, love and meaning as they juggle moral ambiguities in a world of elusive justice.
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Meet Jennifer Harris (taken from her website): I write literary fiction inspired by the historic environment—not historical fiction, but fiction set in the contemporary era that responds to the past, remembered either publicly in monuments and memorials, or in subtle, private ways.
My PhD is in Cultural Heritage theory and I have lectured in and researched cultural heritage and museums for many years. I have run a small museum, and worked as a journalist in Australia and London.
I am from Western Australia and have lived also in France and the UK. In 2020 I relocated to Seattle in the spectacular Pacific Northwest of the USA. I enjoy water colour painting, hiking, skiing, dogs – and, of course, visiting heritage sites and museums.