This week’s Sunday Book Review is on Rebecca Bryn’s riveting read – Touching The Wire. One of my favorite genres to read in is historical fiction – mainly WWII era and the Holocaust. I’ve read many wonderful books in this genre, but none like this one that takes an interesting approach to the story by including a mystery throughout the book, keeping us glued till the very end of the book.
“He had no way to tell her he had given her life: no right to tell her to abandon hope.”
A fictional tale of love and darkness in Auschwitz-Birkenhau, and of every man and woman who bore the Auschwitz tattoo, or were interred in Nazi death camps throughout WW2, this novel is inspired by real events. It is a tribute to the courage of victims of Nazi war crime during the Holocaust, sadly an inescapable part of Jewish history. The horror of holocaust experiments carried out under the auspices of war and Hitler’s obsession with a master race are hard to understand, impossible to condone, and difficult to imagine forgiving. The human spirit that can find love in such a place must be rare indeed, but a person in dire circumstances will grab at a kindness where it is offered. Such is the premise of this story, and it asks the question, could you forgive? Part One transitions between 1944/45 and the 1970s and continues in Part Two in the present day.
Part One – In the Shadow of the Wolf
In a death camp hospital in 1940’s Poland, a young doctor and nurse struggle to save lives and relieve the suffering of their women patients. As their relationship blossoms, amid the death and deprivation, they join the camp resistance and, despite the danger of betrayal, he steals damning evidence of war-crimes. Afraid of repercussions, and for the sake of his post-war family, he hides the evidence but hard truths and terrible choices haunt him, as does an unkept promise to his lost love.
Part Two – Though the Heavens should Fall
In present-day England, his granddaughter seeks to answer the questions posed by her grandfather’s enigmatic carving. Her own relationship in tatters, she meets a modern historian who, intrigued by the carving, agrees to help her discover its purpose. As her grandfather’s past seeps into the present, and more carvings are discovered, she betrays the man she loves and is forced to confront her own guilt in order to contemplate forgiving the unforgivable and keep her grandfather’s promise.
How many Jews were killed in the Holocaust? Estimates vary around the 6 million mark, a number that is hard to imagine. 100 coachloads a day was how one person quantified it. A Holocaust thriller.
“A young woman bent to retrieve her possessions. An SS officer strode past. ‘Leave. Luggage afterwards.’
She stood wide-eyed like a startled deer, one arm cradling a baby. Beside her an elderly woman clutched a battered suitcase. The girl’s eyes darted from soldier to painted signboard and back. ‘What are we doing here, grandmother? Why have they brought us here?’
The wind teased at her cheerful red shawl, revealing and lifting long black hair. She straightened and attempted a smile. ‘It’ll be all right, Grandmother. God has protected us on our journey.’
Voices rasped, whips cracked, dogs barked… An SS officer pushed towards a woman of about fifty. ‘How old?’ She didn’t respond so the officer shouted.
He edged closer. As a doctor he held a privileged position, but he’d also discovered he had a gift for languages. He translated the German to stilted Hungarian, adding quietly. ‘Say you’re under forty-five. Say you are well. Stand here with the younger women.’ He moved from woman to woman, intercepting those he could. ‘Say you are well. Say your daughter is sixteen. Say you can work or have a skill. Say you aren’t pregnant.’
Miriam’s eyes glistened. ‘May He rescue us from every foe.’ She touched her grandmother’s cheek, a gentle lingering movement, and placed a tender kiss on her baby’s forehead. She moved to stand where he pointed.
Miriam’s eyes met his. He had no way to tell her had given her life: no right to tell her to abandon hope. ‘Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.’ ”
My 5 Star Review: Hard to Put Down this Book
“It was forbidden to approach the fence, forbidden to shout out to husbands, wives and loves. It was forbidden to love.” This poignant sentence stood out to me in the gripping story of horrors of the Holocaust as told by a tortured soul – Walt, a.k.a. Chuck Blundell through the present and flashbacks of the past. This story is brilliantly told in two parts as Walt’s story haunts him the rest of his life, first, living through the horrors of the Holocaust then bringing us into the present as the memories continue to distract his life.
Walt is now 72 living with his loving wife, daughter and two granddaughters. His fight to survive and save as many as he could during his capture, only to ‘supposedly’ take his own life decades later, consumed with nightmares and horrific heartbreaking memories from his time in Auschwitz-Birkenhau. The flashbacks were too real and time didn’t heal. Walt kept notes in a diary, risking his life in doing so as he hid them from the SS, knowing that he must one day share with the world, deciding to put those grimoires in time capsules only to be opened in 99 years.
In part two, Walt’s family who knew nothing about his past life as a Polish prisoner or the woman ‘Miriam’ who he fought to save and fell in love with, discover his secrets, and the story of Walt’s life unfolds, spurring the curiosity of one of his granddaughters to investigate the mysteries beginning with the carvings Walt created throughout his life, initiating the search for who was Walt really, and who was this woman Miriam whom Walt’s present day family had never known about.
This book was chilling and often difficult to read with the explicit descriptions of the horrors and tortures that went on in the concentration camp, but the storyline was hauntingly compelling and addictive and brilliantly written.
Although the story was written in fiction, the facts and some of the characters were taken from history. If you enjoy reading stories about humanity combined with a great mystery, you will definitely want to read this book. I look forward to reading more from this talented author, Rebecca Bryn.