Thank you to Rachel’s Random Resources for my spot on the blog tour! I am so glad I got to read this book.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Pages: 242 (ebook version)
Publication date: March 16, 2020
Publisher: Lightning Books
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The fictional memoir of Katrina Klain
3rd place: Yeovil Prize 2016
How true are the family histories that tell us who we are and where we come from? Who knows how much all the beautiful liars have embargoed or embellished the truth?
During a long flight from Europe to Sydney to bury her mother, Australian expat Katrina Klain reviews the fading narrative of her family and her long quest to understand her true origins. This has already taken her to Vienna, where she met her Uncle Harald who embezzled the Austrian government out of millions, as well as Carl Sokorny, the godson of one of Hitler’s most notorious generals, and then on to Geneva and Madrid. Not only were her family caught up with the Nazis, they also turn out to have been involved with the Stasi in post-war East Germany.
It’s a lot to come to terms with, but there are more revelations in store. After the funeral, she finds letters that reveal a dramatic twist which means her own identity must take a radical shift. Will these discoveries enable her to complete the puzzle of her family’s past?
Inspired by her own life story, Sylvia Petter’s richly imaginative debut novel, set between the new world and the old, is a powerful tale about making peace with the past and finding closure for the future.
I found the way the novel opens immensely interesting. Katrina Klain, the main character, finds herself in a sort of limbo where she revisits glimpses from her past by “clicking” through visuals on a screen. She considers herself Australian, but is confused about the truth of her background. She travels to Austria, Vienna–from where her parents had come to Australia–to uncover the mysteries her family has kept from her. What she discovers has her shaken her to the very core and she now sees herself in an entirely different light.
There are some lovely quotes in the book that I felt compelled to re-read:
“Memories. The bits one feels and the bits one is told, and they all come together as snapshots in one’s mind. Some are lost, and some become parts of someone else’s memories. And some bits just disappear and one ends up looking for them for the rest of one’s life–even beyond it.”
“There is no hell, Katrina. It is not a matter of good and bad. There is only here and hereafter. A much better binary.”
“How can I know where I’m going if I don’t know where I’m coming from?”
“Death seems to eat into the most important pieces of one’s memories. Death dresses them up. Death becomes one.”
There are many German phrases, references, and bits of dialogue. Thanks to Wikipedia and Google Translate, I had no trouble understanding them. The shadow of Nazi Germany follows the characters throughout the narrative.
I don’t want to say much and give away the plot. The mystery starts to unravel past the halfway mark, and since that point I couldn’t flip the pages fast enough. I was able to guess Katrina’s secret, although I wasn’t sure because the author gives away very little at a time and keeps the best for the last.
I’d recommend that you read this book in one or two sittings to feel the full impact of the story!
About the Author
Sylvia Petter was born in Vienna but grew up in Australia, which makes her Austr(al)ian.
She started writing fiction in 1993 and has published three story collections, The Past Present, Back Burning and Mercury Blobs. She has a PhD in Creative Writing from the University of New South Wales.
After living for 25 years in the Geneva area, where she was a founding member of the Geneva Writers’ Group, she now lives in Vienna once more.
Read more at sylviapetter.com.
Remember to stop at the other blogs on this blog tour for more reviews: