Around the World in 12 Books: June (Germany)

Title: The Hangman’s Daughter
Author: Oliver Potzsch
Narrator: Grover Garland
Length: 13 hours pages
Published in: 2008
Genre: historical fiction
ISBN: 9781455827138
Source: public library
Reason(s) for Reading: Around the World in 12 Books

Summary (from Goodreads):

Germany, 1659: When a dying boy is pulled from the river with a mark crudely tattooed on his shoulder, hangman Jakob Kuisl is called upon to investigate whether witchcraft is at play in his small Bavarian town. Whispers and dark memories of witch trials and the women burned at the stake just seventy years earlier still haunt the streets of Schongau. When more children disappear and an orphan boy is found dead ? marked by the same tattoo ? the mounting hysteria threatens to erupt into chaos. Before the unrest forces him to torture and execute the very woman who aided in the birth of his children, Jakob must unravel the truth. With the help of his clever daughter, Magdelena, and Simon, the university-educated son of the town’s physician, Jakob discovers that a devil is indeed loose in Schongau. But it may be too late to prevent bloodshed.

My Thoughts: I really liked this story, but it was a little hard to picture as I read it. The last two audiobooks I’ve listened to–this and The Sheen on the Silk–have been harder for me to imagine than before. Perhaps that is because I just haven’t read books set in the mid-1600s or mid-1200s very often. When I tried to picture this particular book, I kept thinking to myself: pilgrims 🙂 Yeah, that’s probably a bit off, but probably not too much.

As far as the story goes, I found it really interesting. There were a few different mysteries to ponder over when reading the story, who was the killer, who paid him to kill, etc. And, as usual, I didn’t try too hard to figure that out because I knew the story would tell me eventually.


What did you learn about the country’s culture, history etc. from reading this book? Any new insights, any shifts in your perception, or did it align with what you knew/understood already?

I didn’t learn much about the history of Germany or about its historic culture that I didn’t already know. The witch-hunt type event wasn’t all that uncommon for the time, at least in the Christian world. I admit I don’t know if witch frenzies were a big deal in areas of the world that practice other religions. It seemed that the social/cultural/historical aspects of the book were pretty similar to the early American colonies, of which I have a fair understanding.

How did land, geography, flora and fauna feature in the book? Did it have a distinct feel that helped you visualise and made you feel like you were there, or was the story more focused on plot?

There was actually a lot of description about the land in the story. There was a river, essential for trade, and a dense forest surrounding part of the town. It did help me envision the setting, but imagining the people and what they wore and acted like was tough for me. I mean, the story read as if it could be happening now, aside from the label of leper house and fighting with swords.


Did the story make you want to visit/revisit the country, or explore it in a new way if you live there already; did it make you want to read more stories set in the country?

I have always been interested in visiting Germany. A lot of my family, on both sides, came frm Germany. My great-great-grandparents came in the mid-1800s from somewhere. I mean, come on, Reichert and Kaetzel couldn’t be more German, and those are my paternal grandparents. There was nothing much in the story, having been set so long ago, that enticed me further to visit Germany. But I still want to go, and maybe I could glimpse that past Germany.

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