The biggest disappointment to me was the protagonist's character development.Leni is passionate, energetic, and hardworking... but I just didn't like her much.For most of the book, she is harsh and stoic.She supposedly falls desperately in love for the first time, but she simply tells us that - it wasn't visible.She watches a woman die after childbirth, and takes the newly orphaned infant into her arms, all without emotion or pity.She is constantly helping others, but admits that it is for self-serving reasons and, even then, she gives reluctantly and rebelliously.Her enlightenment and change in character right near the end of the book felt like too little too late to win my affection.
Leni was also set up with that mysterious female stereotype that is one of my pet peeves:the author goes out of her way to call Leni unattractive, portrays her as cold and brusque with most of the people around her, and yet young men are constantly falling in love with her at first sight.
I guess I'm making this sound a lot worse than it was.The book is a very interesting portrayal of 1950 Germany and brought out many eloquent discussions about the East/West German border and the social tensions it caused.It was fun to read about the hopes, aspirations, and hard work of the members of the acting company, most of whom were well-written and realistic.It was also full of Benary-Isbert's beautiful gift for describing nature and landscapes with a lifelike quality.It is definitely worth the read if you are interested in any of these topics.
Incidentally, the setting of this novel - Winkelberg Castle - features in another of Benary-Isbert's books:Christoph stops there for several days during his escape from East Germany in "Long Way Home."His visit would have come a year or two after the plot of "Castle on the Boarder" closed. Characters from her novel "A Time to Love" also make an appearance.
eBook Castle on the Border