Chosen by Sheila Grant
Family stories are always tempting, especially if there is a hint of conflict or tension. Inge – whom this story centers upon – was the family matriarch, respected, but not fully embraced. She was reserved, reticent and rather cold. The family never really got close to her. On rare occasions she would recount a happy childhood in Konigsberg, now Kaliningrad, Prussia, before heading off to Berlin where she enjoyed the freedom of being a student, dancing the night away to the sound of American jazz.
When the author visited the Baltic area, she found herself in Konigsberg, and telephoned her grandmother in anticipation of pleased surprise. A gasp of shock then silence! Svenja was puzzled. Was Inge annoyed, disturbed or even emotional? On her return home she visited Inge, uncertain of the reception. The visit proved to be the first tentative step towards a close friendship and the gradual and painful unburdening of the old lady’s painful memories. She had suffered tragedy, abuse, poverty, starvation and struggled with the shame, as many victims do. To have kept quiet all these years, never telling the family what she endured cannot have been healthy. Inge proved to be a woman of unbelievable courage.
I was hooked from that point. The weather was dreich (good Scots word), Covid had taken away our freedom to the extent that and the anticipation of each day amounted to choosing which muddy route to walk with the dog! Perfect for curling up at the fire, Gin and tonic to hand, and a good book. I was not disappointed.
Inge’s War has that unique flair of pulling the reader into the heart of the story, where phone calls, door bells, and such are invasive. Of the multiple stories of WW2 this one is set in a perhaps overlooked location caught between Germany and Russia and given no quarter by either side. Inge endured dreadful treatment, in extremely arduous conditions. She lost everything including those she loved, and lived in fear. Read this book with a box of tissues to hand.
How easy it is to judge someone on their behaviour. Inge’s family was always wary, ill at ease, often side-stepping confrontation and reluctant to ask questions. Until that spontaneous telephone call brought banked down memories to the surface, the result is this gripping and unputdownable book.
Inge’s War is the story of a courageous and dignified lady, told beautifully in this superb book that I can highly recommend.
So, with the restrictions of this year especially at the Christmas season, why don’t you give a call to someone on their own who would like to hear a friendly voice. You just might find there is an interesting story there.
ISBN 978152910542 HB
Published by Ebury 2020