So, a book to be read with seriousness. Chapters are headed with the Malleus Maleficarum, to remind readers that the cruelties are not fiction. We should remember, and I believe fictional representations of a dark time are as good a way to do that as any other. Or, maybe I just like good stories, well told.
It was a winter to make bitter all souls. So cold the birds froze mid call and our little fire couldn't keep ice from burrowing into bed with us. The fleas froze in the straw beds, bodies swollen with chilled blood. We were hungry.
Last line (at least: this is where the book would have ended if I'd been the editor)
I kissed my son goodly on each cheek and put him from me. I was too distressed to bear his distress as well. I walked away from the square but I did not send my steps home. I knew home had gone up in smoke like Künne, like Fronika.
A cut at that point makes sense to me. It maintains the mood of the novel and you're left to imagine for yourself how - if - Güde can get by. But author and editor didn't ask my advice, and so they carry on for a couple more chapters, a couple of years into the future. For me, this brought forced optimism to a dark tale. Read on still further (at least in the paperback edition I read) and there's a very clunky family history from the author determined to share in her ancestor's tribulations. Trust me. Get to the line where I make the cut, and then ... stop reading.