‘When the battle’s lost and won…’
🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Publication due May 2nd 2013 UK and May 7th 2013 US
The setting is post-WW2 Hamburg, a city destroyed by the Allied forces, where the inhabitants are not only struggling with poverty and homelessness, but are also trying to come to terms with the horrors they have lived through. Colonel Lewis Morgan of the occupying British forces is expecting the arrival of his wife and son and has been allocated a requisitioned house on the banks of the Elbe. But Morgan feels guilty about taking the home from its owner so, despite instructions that the occupiers shouldn’t fraternise with the locals, he invites Herr Lubert and his daughter to stay on and share the house.
The descriptions of life in Hamburg at this time are stark and horrifying, and very convincing. The author contrasts the somewhat pampered lives of the occupiers with the hardship of the locals, many of whom are not permitted to work until they have been cleared of involvement with the Nazis. We are shown the gangs of ‘feral’ children, orphaned and living rough, surviving by begging and stealing. The author, through Lewis, takes a sympathetic view of the defeated Germans and contrasts this with some of the Allied characters who feel that all Germans are culpable for the war and deserve its after-effects. Occasionally I felt he veered a little far in this direction and was in danger of making all the Germans wronged and good with all the Allies rapacious and bad, but it’s a fine line and he managed to walk it most of the time.
Where the book didn’t work so well for me was in the characterisation. It seemed as if the author had certain things he wanted to say, points he wanted to make, and had created his characters only to serve those purposes. Rachael, Lewis’ wife, is still grieving the loss of their eldest son in a bombing raid and at first finds the idea of fraternising with the Germans abhorrent. Her fairly rapid change of view was unconvincing. The same is true of the friendship struck up between Lewis’ son Edmund and the feral children. And Herr Lubert’s daughter, Freda, seemed to be no more than a cipher for disaffected youth. I expected this to be a moving read given the subject matter, but in fact I found it surprisingly unemotional, even cold. The blurb says it is being developed as a feature film by Ridley Scott’s company and I think it may work rather better as a film, with the added emotional depth a good cast might be able to bring to it.
Despite these criticisms, it is a well written and thought-provoking read that looks at the impact of the war from a slightly different viewpoint, and for these reasons is well worth reading.
NB This book was provided for review by Amazon Vine UK.