Today I’m thrilled to be taking part in the blog tour for this amazing book. Although I like historical fiction, the 1940’s is not a time period I would usually read, however this book appealed to me and was getting such good feedback that I couldn’t resist. So, read on and find out if it lived up to my expectations.
Blurb: In Oslo in 1942, Jewish courier Ester is betrayed, narrowly avoiding arrest by the Gestapo. In great haste, she escapes to Sweden whilst the rest of her family is deported to Auschwitz. In Stockholm, Ester meets the resistance hero, Gerhard Falkum, who has left his little daughter and fled both the Germans and allegations that he murdered his wife, Åse, Ester’s childhood best friend. A relationship develops between them, but ends abruptly when Falkum dies in a fire.
And yet, twenty-five years later, Falkum shows up in Oslo. He wants to reconnect with his daughter Turid. But where has he been, and what is the real reason for his return? Ester stumbles across information that forces her to look closely at her past, and to revisit her war-time training to stay alive…
My Review: I’m typing this in my kitchen, perhaps an odd location to type a review but it means I have to stand which is good when I sit a lot at work everyday. While standing here I can here road noise, traffic from the street at the end of mine. My street is quiet save for distant sounds of children playing and birdsong and, having read this book I realise, listening to these sounds how lucky I am to be able to do this without fear of any kind. I can travel to work and not worry about being locked out of work or home or having my possessions taken from me. The anniversaries of both World Wars, Remembrance Sunday and the other commemorations are hugely important but mostly they focus on those who fought, they don’t really tell us about the people who had to live in occupied cities.
From television, school lessons and general discussions I know a lot about the events of the second World War but what I know less about is how people, ordinary people, lived during that time. While the characters in this book are not entirely ordinary they are not military either and the story is crafted in such a way that you can feel the tension in the pages, in those set in 1942, but also in the ones set in 1967. You can feel the lies, deceit and subterfuge that seems to still exist between those characters from 1942, even though the war is long since over. I spent a lot of time while reading this book, deeply concerned for the characters, particularly Ester as she tries to live some kind of life in a world in which she has no control over what happens and doesn’t know who she can trust.
This is a profound story, it shows how upheaval, loss and plotting can impact someone’s life. Can Ester trust those around her? in the scenes set in 1967 will she ever find out the truth? and, for that matter, will we?
The writing in the book is outstanding. The characters are brilliantly written but the stand out one is Ester, she is so real that I keep wondering how she would feel about certain things before I realise she’s fictional and can’t answer me. This isn’t one of those stories that feels it has to make everything larger than life, there are subtleties her, words that are so heavy with meaning they make you want to stop reading and look outside and remind yourself that the world has changed and you aren’t living in the book.
This is a book that everyone should read, whether you are interested in historical fiction or not. Read it and then truly appreciate what you have, look outside and be amazed at the sunshine as I am doing in pauses in between typing. I know the sun shines because of the Earth’s rotation but I always find it hard to believe that it could ever have been sunny in the 1940’s while the war was on, for how could there be sunshine when so much horror and cruelty existed. Read this book, and then appreciate simple things like the sun shining because these are the things we take for granted and we really shouldn’t. And now that I’ve said all of that I’m going to stand outside and enjoy the sun and the breeze because I can.
About the author:
One of the fathers of the Nordic Noir genre, Kjell Ola Dahl was born in 1958 in Gjøvik. He made his debut in 1993, and has since published eleven novels, the most prominent of which is a series of police procedurals cum psychological thrillers featuring investigators Gunnarstranda and Frølich. In 2000 he won the Riverton Prize for The Last Fix and he won both the prestigious Brage and Riverton Prizes for The Courier in 2015. His work has been published in 14 countries, and he lives in Oslo.