Set in a rural Austrian village on the border of a concentration camp, in the latter stages of the Second World War, this is a story of Ursula - a vulnerable and courageous thirteen-year-old who is partial to thieving, disturbed by her father's death, her mother's affair with a married man, and the increasingly cruel behaviour of her adored older brother Anton who joins Hitler Youth and applies the movement's ideology to his family and neighbours.
As Anton becomes more and more sullen and violent, Ursula befriends the dim-witted boy next door, Schosi, whose disabilities make him susceptible to the attention of the watchful villagers. Soon Ursula must decide where her allegiances lie, and what exactly these binding family ties are keeping her from discovering.
My Own Dear Brother is a gripping and beautifully-written novel that shows a world of conflict in a microcosm, often from the point of view of the vulnerable and those far from the front line. Holly Müller captures the disintegration of a village and human capacity for cruelty in breath-taking detail.