General von Menen not only confides in his wife, but it is clear she has a reserve of strength that he draws on. When we first meet Anna, she is laid up with bronchitis, yet her thoughts are still on supporting her husband:
“The rain had stopped, the silence broken only by Anna’s hushed breathing. Exhausted, with all hope of sleep abandoned, the General slipped silently from his bed, sat down by the window, parted the curtains and peered out across the dark, vast expanse of his beloved Mecklenburg.
His wife stirred just as dawn broke. ‘What’s the matter, Klaus?’
The question went unanswered. General von Menen was lost in an ocean of misery, his mind tangled by the thought of a future where only agony and despair would exist. Anna slipped out of bed and hurried across the room, the light of day settling on a tortured face, a husband she hardly recognised. Kneeling beside him, she placed her arm around his shoulder.”
She is a tactile person, shown in her interactions with Carl at each goodbye and reunion. When he returns from Argentina in 1944, it is Anna’s body language that marks the event:
“Klaus and Anna von Menen hadn’t seen their son in over three years, and it showed. A full thirty seconds passed before Anna finally untangled herself from her boy. She moved back a step, reached out and touched his face, as if not quite sure that he was standing there.”
Anna is in many ways the centre of the Mecklenburg family. She arranges visits, organises the household, keeps track of obscure relatives’ birthdays and supports her daughter Katrina during her pregnancy.
Beyond the domestic sphere, she is “a woman of charm, culture and great compassion” who enjoys literature and gardening. She and Greta Steiger are great friends, and seem to lose years when they laugh together. And when Carl announces his engagement to Maria, she is thrilled at the idea of keeping the Spanish language in the family.