‘Our parents were taken. And if we go home, the Nazis will take us too…’
Hamburg 1938. Fifteen-year-old Asta is hurrying home from school with her twin brother Jurgen. The mood in the city is tense – synagogues have been smashed with sledgehammers, and Asta is too frightened to laugh as she used to.
But when she and Jurgen are stopped in the street by a friend, her world implodes further. Her Jewish parents have been dragged into the streets by German soldiers and if she and Jurgen return to their house, they will be taken too.
Heartbroken at the loss of her parents, Asta knows they must flee. With her beloved brother, she must make the perilous journey across Germany and into Denmark to reach their only surviving relative, her aunt Trine, a woman they barely know.
Jammed into a truck with other refugees, Asta prays for a miracle to save herself and Jurgen. Crossing the border is a crime punishable by death, and what she and Jurgen must embark on a dangerous crossing on foot, through the snowy forest dividing Germany and Denmark. And when barking dogs and armed soldiers find Jurgen and Asta escapes, she must hold on to hope no matter what. One day she will find her twin, the other half of herself. Whatever the price she has to pay…
A gripping and poignant read that will break your heart and give you hope. Fans of Fiona Valpy, Kristin Hannah and Catherine Hokin will be gripped by the story of a brave brother and sister seeking safety during one of the darkest times in our history.
Thank you to Sarah for my invitation to the tour and for my digital copy of the book.
Ingrid is visiting her Grandfather Morfar in Sweden where they all live. He has not been well and has mild dementia. He starts to talk to her in German shocked but she replies. She recalls a time as a child that he scolded her for speaking German and she speaks to her Mother about Morfar’s past she knows very little as her own mother died when she was a baby.
When she visits him again he again falls in the German conversation and this time calls her Asta, his twin sister. He has always said he was an only child, so is he confused, or hiding a dark secret. He gets very angry when she questions him and upset, however he calms down and decides to tell Ingrid his story.
What transpires is a heartbreaking story of a family torn apart by Nazi Germany in Hamburg in 1933. It tracks the life of Jurgen as Hilter comes to power and Germany becomes a deadly place for the Jewish people. It was heartbreaking, the closeness of Asta and Jurgen as twin siblings, they come from a comfortable background where their parents both work at the local Hospital. Their friends start to be told that they cannot be friends with the twins anymore as their parents said they have to choose a side. Things go from bad to worse and Mutti and Papa consider moving to Denmark to Papa’s sisters Trine to escape. However things take a dark turn and Jurgen and Asta find themselves alone and needing to escape.
This is a very engaging and beautifully written story and although completely devastating in places the thought of this young pair caught up in some of the most tragic occurrences seen in our history really touched me. It is dramatic and tense and kept me gripped.
The connection with the swallows was particularly poignant ‘Swallows seldom rest, they spend most of their lives in flight’ and the story of the Schwalbe family will stay with me for a very long time.
Lily has been telling stories since she was a child, starting with her imaginary rabbit, Stephanus, and their adventures in the enchanted peach tree in her garden, which she envisioned as a magical portal to Enid Blyton’s Faraway Tree. She’s never really got out of the habit of making things up, and still thinks of Stephanus rather fondly.
She lives with her husband and her English bulldog, Fudge, and brings her love for the sea and country-living to her fiction.