Today I’m passing the blog back over to Mandie who has. review of Inge’s War by Svenja O’Donnell as part of the blog tour. With thanks to Anne Cater of Random Things Tours for inviting us to join the tour and to publisher Ebury for providing a copy of the book for review, here’s what it’s all about:
About the Book
What does it mean to be on the wrong side of history?Available from: Amazon | Kobo | Waterstones | Hive | Googleplay | Apple Books
Svenja O’Donnell’s beautiful, aloof grandmother Inge never spoke about the past. All her family knew was that she had grown up in a city that no longer exists on any map: Königsberg in East Prussia, a footnote in history, a place that almost no one has heard of today. But when Svenja impulsively visits this windswept Baltic city, something unlocks in Inge and, finally, she begins to tell her story.
It begins in the secret jazz bars of Hitler’s Berlin. It is a story of passionate first love, betrayal, terror, flight, starvation and violence. As Svenja teases out the threads of her grandmother’s life, retracing her steps all over Europe, she realises that there is suffering here on a scale that she had never dreamt of. And finally, she uncovers a desperately tragic secret that her grandmother has been keeping for sixty years.
Inge’s War listens to the voices that are often missing from our historical narrative – those of women caught up on the wrong side of history. It is a book about memory and heritage that interrogates the legacy passed down by those who survive. It also poses the questions: who do we allow to tell their story? What do we mean by family? And what will we do in order to survive?
Its no secret to those who know me that I have a real fascination with history and love to read both fiction and non-fiction books in this genre. Having read quite a few books lately that focus on the holocaust, when given the chance to read a book about the same period of time but from the perspective of a German survivor of the war, I couldn’t refuse.
I always find it hard when writing a review of a memoir as they are not a work of fiction but someone’s actual life that they have entrusted to the reader and I worry about doing their story justice. Svenja O’Donnell was always intrigued about her grandmother Inge’s past. They had not always had a close relationship, but after a trip to the place where her grandmother grew up, a place that technically no longer exists, she finally gets to understand that maybe the distance she has always experienced was a coping mechanism and the only way her grandmother had been able to continue living through everything she had experienced.
Inge’s childhood as a German living in East Prussia appeared to be relatively normal, in fact even during the early stages of WW2 her family were not really touched by events that were happening in other parts of Europe. It was almost as thought they were forgotten about. In part their lives were easier due to the fact they found it better to say nothing in public, despite what they may feel in private, but that sentiment can still be true today. It was only towards the end of the war, with Russia making advances that Inge and her family had to face the true realities of the war. By this time she had already been abandoned by the father of her child and she found herself taking charge of her parents who had all but shut down, not knowing what to do. Making a treacherous journey to a country that would also shun them once the war was over, they became the refugees of the war that we know little about. Having lost everything, they had to start again and find a place in a very different world.
Inge’s war has certainly opened my eyes to a little bit more of this time in history and shows that we can forget that there were also casualties for the German population. Not everything is black and white and quite often people can be found guilty just by their place of birth and not just their actions. If it was not for O’Donnell’s determination to uncover her family’s past it could have been a part of history that could have been forgotten
About the Author
Svenja O’Donnell is an award-winning political correspondent and commentator whose work regularly features on TV and radio. Before covering Brexit for Bloomberg, she worked as a correspondent in Russia. Half-Irish and half-German, she was born and brought up in Paris, and lives in London. Inge’s War is her first book.
Author Links: Twitter
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