Title: Paper Boats
Author: Erndell Scott
Publication Date: Jan 22, 2016
Set in the desperate turmoil of Germany during the final chapter of World War II, “Paper Boats” by Erndell Scott is an emotionally intense, theatrical, suspense-driven read, examining the inevitable crossing of ideology, prejudice and faith amongst the chaos of a decimated post-war culture. As each character strives to find their own safety from enemies and persecution, two nine-year-old boys, Otto, of Jewish faith, and Joseph, a fanatical Hitler Youth, the most unlikely of partners, ﬁnd themselves saviors for one another. Companions cast in deep personal conflict that is entangled with deceit and betrayal, they are swept into an unforgiving journey and become bound to each other, challenging their individual perceptions of mankind, and unbeknownst to them, their very own hearts. As their journey unfolds, Otto’s hope wanes, Joseph’s hatred swells, and without warning, the steady menace of war unleashes an evil, the likes of which they have never witnessed before.
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Paper Boats was an amazing, disturbing, confrontational yet moving historical fiction about World War 2 and the fall of Germany to the allied forces. It perfectly echoes the chaos and grimness and general despair of that period.
Told through the POV of 11-year-old Otto, messenger to the High Court, a Jew and a prisoner. He is tasked with couriering messages back and forth from the bunker where Hitler and his closest staff are hiding out from the Russians and the Allied forces who are busy laying waste to Germany. It was a dangerous time to be a German but Otto had no choice in the matter since he plans to survive so that he could be reunited with his childhood friend and hopefully his family. Determined to survive these atrocities he tries to keep his head down (often literally) and his wits about him and finds comfort by revisiting his memories of the times he and Anna spent making paper boats and sailing them. He is soon set on a path that he hopes will lead him to his heart’s greatest desire but must do so with the most unlikely of allies, a Hitler youth soldier, who has been conditioned to hate anything Jewish. As if it were not bad enough that he had to constantly avoid capture of being shot by the Russians, he also had to watch his back in case his travel companion tries to kill him too.
What I liked most about Paper Boats is the author’s ability to evoke a wide range of emotions . The despair, panic, chaos and desire for self-preservation at any cost which rules this war-torn land is almost palpable and it was so heart-wrenching to know that such events had actually happened. The author did a terrific job of bringing it all to life with a degree of authenticity which can only come from thorough research, even down to the callousness of the invading forces, the depravity of the German officers and Hitler’s, dare I say, madness.
If I had any issues with this book, it was that the tone and language seemed ‘off’ for an 11-year-old but then again given the circumstances at the time, this could have shaped Otto to be much more mature and somber than someone his age would be under different circumstances.
Overall, I found Paper Boats to be an engrossing, captivating, moving tale with just the right dose of reality which allows you to experience, vicariously, a very small taste the horrors of World War 2 and the events which led up to it. Seeing it from a boy’s perspective just made it all the more disturbing. The ending brought me to tears of joy and completed the roller-coaster ride of emotions I was sent upon throughout the reading of this book.
About The Author
Despite studying in college to be in the forestry profession, when career choice time was upon him, Erndell found himself drawn to the bigger, faster, more dynamic world of advertising. He spent years as a copywriter and art director – ‘imagining it’ as he traveled to captivating places, met interesting people and crafted work that in many cases redefined culture.
Erndell, tired of the fast-paced lifestyle of advertising, found himself seeking an art form where he could create his own work. He turned to fiction writing and hasn’t looked back. Today, he uses his imagination to pen experiential work, such as his breakout novel ‘Paper Boats.’
Alternating his time between his rural farm in Indiana and his family home in Vermont, Erndell welcomes the quiet respite and calm of his career. The little boy of New Jersey is satisfied, playing in the woods, and ‘imagining it.’
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