This is Audrey Magee’s debut novel and one of the final 6 books we shortlisted in the Bailey’s Women’s Fiction prize for 2014. It tells the story of an ordinary German soldier in World War 2 who is so desperate to escape the fighting on the Eastern front that he uses a ‘marriage bureau’ to wed a German woman he has never met. In return for this ‘Undertaking’, he is allowed leave from the Russian front, she is guaranteed his pension if he dies in action as well as the prospect of producing children for the Reich. It’s a scheme that’s all part of Hitler’s ‘project’. But what neither of them anticipate is how drawn they will be to each other once they’ve met. What I particularly loved about this book was the way it’s written – sparse prose, lots of dialogue that feels like it’s been stripped right back, making it feel all the more powerful. Because of that, it moves along at quite a pace. It’s rather like a piece of theatre written in novel form. For me, one of the most powerful parts of the book is the description of the trapped German soldiers fighting in Stalingrad. I’ve not felt that claustrophobic since reading Sebastian Faulk’s descriptions of the World War 1 tunnels in Birdsong.