“A Beautifully Written and Wonderfully Unique Coming-of-Age Story!”
A Review of Uta Christensen’s Novel Bed of Roses Bed of Thorns
By William Speir, Author of Knights of the Saltier – Book 1 of the Order of the Saltier Trilogy
I just finished reading Bed of Roses Bed of Thorns by Uta Christensen and I was pleasantly surprised. I do not normally read coming-of-age stories – they have never been among my favorites. But I found this story absolutely fascinating, and by the time I was done reading the book I was surprised at how much I truly enjoyed every bit of it!
The story is about a young girl named Ursula Meister, or Ulla as she liked to be called, from the age of five until she is eighteen. Her mother was a seamstress and tailor, and her father was a German Officer during World War II. The story chronicles her life as she moves from an apartment in Bavaria that her family shares with her mother’s mother and sisters, to her father’s family farm in Northern Germany, to an apartment in the nearby city of Breitingen. It also chronicles her relationship with her overly strict mother, her baby sister, her friends, her parents’ relatives, and her absent father, who was captured at the end of the war and sent to a prisoner of war camp in Russia for several years. It is through these relationships that she learns about her family’s history and how her relatives came to be who and what they were during Ulla’s life.
More than just a biography of a young girl growing up and surviving in a war-raged land, this is the story of a deeply profound intellectual and spiritual awakening that takes place as Ulla learns more about her family’s past and more about the world around her. She is exposed to a number of religions as a young girl, but in the end rejects them all because she disagrees with their chauvinistic, cold, and uncaring doctrines. She develops a strong sense of spirituality and the relationship she was with the divine creator, which shapes her life and guides the way she views and interacts with others. She has an insatiable thirst for knowledge and adventure, which sets her at odds with her parents’ plans for her. They want Ulla to follow in her mother’s footsteps by marrying young, raising children, and being a dutiful wife and mother in her community according to tradition. In the end, Ulla breaks free of the future planned for her by her parents and takes the first steps on the adventure that will shape the rest of her life.
Uta Christensen is an excellent writer and story-teller. Her characters are strong and believable, and the setting she places them in is described so vividly that one can easily imagine being there with them in the mountains, forests, and cities of Germany in the 1940s and 1950s. The story, told from the perspective of a young girl, transcends the physical locations to explain the yearning to understand that Ulla has throughout her life, and the path that yearning places her on. The elements of the story are beautifully crafted, well woven, and compelling for any reader.
All in all, I highly recommend this book. It was an excellent and enjoyable read, and has left me thinking deeply about my own choices, actions, history, and thirst for knowledge and understanding.