Thursday, May 30, 2019


Jennifer Cody Epstein's books include The Gods of Heavenly Punishment, winner of the 2014 Asian Pacific Association of Librarians Honor award for outstanding fiction, as well as the international bestseller The Painter from Shanghai.

Epstein applied the Page 69 Test to her new novel, Wunderland, and reported the following:
From page 69:

“Can you speed up?” says Ilse. “You’re moving like my grandmother.”

They have just emerged from the Wittenbergerplatz U-Bahn station and are standing on the street by its steps. Rather than speeding up, however, Renate stops altogether. “I’m sorry,” she says, and leans against one of the railings. “I didn’t sleep well last night. I kept worrying about the letter.”

“I keep telling you. They probably won’t even ask for it.”

“But what if they do? And what if they can tell?”

Ilse heaves an exasperated sigh. “All right. Let’s see it, then.”

Renate pulls the envelope from her satchel, then pulls the thrice-folded sheet of paper from the envelope. She hands it over, swallowing her anxiety as Ilse runs a well-chewed fingertip down each carefully typed line:

Dear Fräulein von Schmidt:
Please allow my daughter Renate to register as a Hitlerjugend Jung-mädel and provide her with the appropriate physical exam: she has our full approval on both counts. I apologize that neither my wife nor I could accompany her today, but we’ve had a death in the family and must leave town immediately. Thank you for your consideration.

Heil Hitler! Otto Bauer
This section is in many ways about as representative of Wunderland as you can get, as it marks a very crucial turning point in the two central narratives. Fifteen-year-old Renate Bauer and her best friend Ilse von Fischer are heading in to Hitlerjugen headquarters in 1935 Berlin with the intention of signing Renate up for the highly popular Bund Deutscher Mädel, the female division of the Hitler Youth. Ilse has happily been a member for two years, and since Renate’s parents have forbidden her to join the organization, she has urged Renate to forge a note from her father giving his approval. Bookish and slightly anxious by nature, Renate is worried that this ruse will be discovered and she’ll be refused. As it turns out, though, there are far greater stakes in play than a forged permission slip. For in the scene that follows she is told that under the Nuremberg Laws—which by that point have been in place for two years—she is actually not considered German at all, since (utterly unbeknownst to her) her father was born to formerly Jewish parents who had converted to Lutheranism around the turn of the century. It’s a discovery that will shatter Renate’s world as she knew it, putting her and Ilse on opposite sides of the antisemitic storm sweeping their country, and shaping both their lives in devastating—if very different—ways.
Visit Jennifer Cody Epstein's website.

The Page 69 Test: The Painter from Shanghai.

The Page 69 Test: The Gods of Heavenly Punishment.

Writers Read: Jennifer Cody Epstein.

--Marshal Zeringue