*My Blog tour review is slightly delayed due to an unscheduled hospital stay*
The Watcher by Monika Jephcott Thomas
It’s 1949 when Netta’s father Max is released from a Siberian POW camp and returns to his home in occupied Germany. But he is not the man the little girl is expecting – the brave, handsome doctor her mother Erika told her stories of. Erika too struggles to reconcile this withdrawn, volatile figure with the husband she knew and loved before, and, as she strives to break through the wall Max has built around himself, Netta is both frightened and jealous of this interloper in the previously cosy household she shared with her mother and doting grandparents. Now, if family life isn’t tough enough, it is about to get even tougher, when a murder sparks a police investigation, which begins to unearth dark secrets they all hoped had been forgotten.
I am a huge ww2 fiction fan! When I read the synopsis of this novel, I was immediately intrigued. I found the theme of a soldier overcoming the horror he has witnessed, fascinating. I also like the unique theme of the protagonist being a German POW, held by the Russians. A theme slightly neglected, in my opinion. This novel does debate the theory of the German guilt, post-ww2. Either by German civilians or soldiers themselves. It is very cleverly constructed so that you see the topic from various angles.
The novel opens with Max having recently returned from 4yrs hard labour in a Siberian camp. He appears physically and emotionally broken. We are aware he is having trouble battling the mental torment and processing the physical torture he has both witnessed and been a victim of. Max returns to his wife Erika, who has kept herself rather busy with another man. Her guilt for this affair and pain at watching Max struggle fuel her narrative within the novel. But Max and Erika, also have a young daughter named Netta. Netta is just as confused as all the adults in her life and is desperate her life returns to normal. Meanwhile you are aware that somewhere out there is the watcher……….
“If I were a little bird and had wings, I would fly to you…”
Max and Erika are both trained and qualified Doctors. Max was working in a field hospital when he was captured. Throughout the novel, it is scattered with Max’s memories of what he has been forced to endure, it does not make for easy reading. But fully explores how much ww2 POWs were subjected to. “Six of our boys nailed to the table by their tongues, ten hung up from meat hooks in the slaughterhouse and another fifteen thrown down the well and stoned to death. Bloody barbarians those Bolshevists” Obviously as the reader you are aware of the irony, that Max feels so abused and brutalised. When you are aware Nazi ideology, was much the same. But then that fact suddenly dawns on Max.
“God is punishing us for what we did to the rest of the world” Max
Max’s daily struggle, seems almost to be reaching breaking point. Then their maid Karin, is found murdered! Did Max’s mental health finally snap? Was it Erika’s jealousy? Or does an allied soldier lurk to prey on young women? Was it Karin’s disgruntled lover? At the end, all is revealed and the characters are forced to come to terms with who they really are and the impact the war has had upon them.
A thoroughly emotive ww2 fiction novel. 4*