Bertha: Shine Like The Dawn by Lisa M. Hutchison is a dive into the Germany of the mid 1800’s through to the mid 1900’s. Bertha, the title character was a real person; the great-great-grandmother of the author and was a woman who struggled through and dealt with the immense social changes that characterized Germany, Europe and the world, during that period. Raped by her own Uncle at seventeen, Bertha found herself pregnant and alone. The only solution, from her family’s perspective was to find someone prepared to marry the young woman and claim the child as his own. With no choice, Bertha marries a man she hardly even knows and begins a reign of terror by an abusive and drunken husband. When she finally finds the courage to leave him (an incredibly difficult thing to do in the 1800’s) she runs to her beloved Oma (Grandmother) in Berlin and tries valiantly to raise her children in a loving and caring environment, faced with the never-ending changes to the social fabric of Germany, at the time.
I do love a good historical novel and Bertha: Shine Like The Dawn is absolutely that. Author Lisa M. Hutchison clearly has a lot of personal emotion poured into this story given her familial relationship to the principal character. This passion shows in a story that depicts a woman ahead of her time, in the Germany of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Her compassion is deep, her understanding and patience, in the face of trials and tribulations that would defy others, is incredible. As a character, Bertha was an immensely appealing person. I particularly loved the way that no matter how hard things seemed, what travails she faced, she still maintained a positive, “must do” – “no choice” attitude to life. The story absolutely flows beautifully and is very easy to read, definitely a tribute to the author’s writing talents. Bertha lived through some of the most turbulent and tumultuous times in history; two world wars, the great depression, Germany’s hyperinflation and yet through it all she was indomitable, with the love of her life, Leopold, beside her for a large part of it. That the narrative successfully transported the reader back to those tough, yet simpler times and made us feel like part of this family almost, is perhaps the greatest tribute I can pay Hutchison, as an author. A truly readable and worthwhile story that I can highly recommend.