The Escape by Clare Harvey
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Publishing Date: 24th January 2019
Source: Received from the publisher, thank you!
Number of pages: 400
Genre: Historical Fiction
A compelling wartime drama for fans of Lucinda Riley, Rachel Hore and Katherine Webb
Clara works as a translator for a Nazi-run labour camp for French workers. One winter morning in early 1945, Clara passes a group of exhausted British prisoners of war who are being force-marched westwards. The following day she receives an urgent message to contact the local priest. He is harbouring a group of escaped British prisoners of war in the manse: can she help?
London, 1989. Monica is a 19-year old photography student in London, in thrall to her older boyfriend, a journalist called Quill. In November the fall of the Berlin Wall is all over the news. Quill asks Monica to come with him to Germany: before they leave, Monica’s grandmother gives her an old postcard of the village she was born in. Monica hopes that working together in Berlin will help cement the cracks in her relationship with Quill, but one night his behaviour spills over into violence, and Monica ends up fleeing through the rubble of the Berlin wall and into the East. As she travels further, she begins to suspect she’s being followed by the Stasi. If she goes on, she worries that she’ll be taken into custody and be accused of spying; if she turns back, it means returning to Quill.
At last her grandmother’s photograph offers the solution. She tells people that she is going to find her family in the East. The Catholic church, and the manse, opposite where her grandmother once lived, are still standing. And the secrets of the past begin to be revealed.
“The Escape” by Clare Harvey follows two different timelines and two women, sharing a history. Detta lives in a small village in Germany. The war is coming to an end and the Russian Army is on their way – to free people, but also it is rumoured they’re cruel and nothing and nobody is safe from them. One day, Detta passes a group of force – marched British prisoners. The following day, her help is needed – a day that is going to change her life for ever.
Miranda is a photography student and finds herself in Berlin in 1989 at the Wall fall. A granddaughter of Detta, she finds an old postcard of the village where her grandmother was born. Detta sends her on a mission there but Miranda is in danger – as she flees from an abusive relationship into the east, she starts to suspect she’s being followed by the Stasi. Why? Is she going to be able to help her grandmother?
This novel was brilliantly written and researched. The author can so incredibly well capture all the feelings and emotions, especially in those parts that take place during the war – fear, uncertainty, not knowing what’s going to happen and what the future brings, they’re all so very well written. While the times of the Berlin Wall fall are not so much in my area of interest, I’m always happy to read books set during the World War II, and even more gladly when there is Poland as setting involved. “The Escape” is mostly set in Germany, in and around Berlin, a little town in Poland also plays crucial role in it. It focuses on very dark and sad period of time in our history, and truly, the descriptions were heart – wrenching and tugging at the heart – strings, but this book is also full of hope and not at all depressing. It is moving, yes, but the author has managed, despite the topic being a serious and difficult one, to make it light and also uplifting.
This book was a slow burner. A very slow burner, and I’ve already found myself really irritated a few times, waiting for it to eventually kick off, for the story to finally start rolling. I’ll be honest with you – if I weren’t reading this novel for a blog tour, I’d most certainly put it away. It was only around the middle, after Miranda started searching and Detta’s story began to unravel, that I found myself glued to the pages, racing through them, desperate to see what has happened. I’d much more liked Detta’s plot to this of Miranda – I understand, after reading the author’s guest post on research, why Miranda was needed, she was like a significant tool to Detta, but I somehow couldn’t warm to her and to her story. I just felt there is no connection between us and also, she could be more fleshed out for my liking. Detta, however, was another story. There was a depth to her and she had really something to tell, and her tale was heart – breaking, full of loss but also hope. Sure, Miranda’s story was also interesting – the war is over but is there peace at all? As the two narratives interweave, the plot slowly starts to unravel, and there is a real sense of uncertainty, tension, of not knowing what’s going to happen and what has happened in Detta’s past.
Altogether, “The Escape” was a thought – provoking tale, full of questions what if and what would you do, how would you behave. It’s full of moral lessons without being patronising and the authors handles all the topics with care and gentleness. It was sensitive and compelling, and beautifully written and, as it was my first book by Clare Harvey, I’m already looking forward to read her previous novels, because “The Escape” was a great enough piece of historical fiction. Recommended.
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