There, on the dusty floorboards, was a piece of paper, folded neatly. A newspaper article from 1941, written in German, alongside a faded picture of two men in Nazi uniforms staring at the camera. I was about to place it back in the box of forgotten things when something in the text jumped out at me. My breath caught in my chest. I know that name.
London, present day. Isla has grown up hearing her beloved grandad’s stories about his life as a child in pre-war Poland and as a young soldier bravely fighting the Germans to protect his people. So she is shocked and heartbroken to find, while collecting photos for his 95th birthday celebration, a picture of her dear grandfather wearing a Nazi uniform. Is everything she thought she knew about him a lie?
Unable to question him due to his advanced dementia, Isla wraps herself in her rainbow-coloured scarf, a memento of his from the war, and begins to hunt for the truth behind the photograph. What she uncovers is more shocking than she could have ever anticipated – a tale of childhood sweethearts torn apart by family duty, and how one young man risked his life, his love and the respect of his own people, to secretly fight for justice from inside the heart of the enemy itself…
An heartbreaking novel of love, betrayal and a secret passed down through a family. Inspired by an incredible true story. Perfect for fans of The Tattooist of Auschwitz, We Were the Lucky Ones and The Alice Network.
As Isla begins preparing for her beloved grandfathers birthday, she comes across a colourful scarf and a photograph of her grandfather in a German War uniform which leaves Isla confused and questioning whether she truly knows her grandfather at all. Under normal circumstances Isla would simply ask her grandfather to explain the picture, but as he is living with dementia she doesn’t want to risk causing him any distress.
It is this discovery that takes Isla on a journey to Poland as she tries to piece together the mystery surrounding the scarf and picture she found, and as she delves further into her Grandfathers youth, it instils something within her that pushes her to make more of her life. Whilst there she discovers family she never knew existed, and makes connections that change her life forever.
This is one of those books that draws you in from the moment you begin reading it. The story itself is informative and moving, and truly gives a voice to how living throughout War times often forced people in to making decisions they would usually avoid. The way in which the story is told is captivating and emotional and has you frantically turning the pages, desperate to know what happens next.
The characters are well fleshed out and have each been given their own unique voices that allow us to connect with them on a much deeper level. The bond that Isla shared with her grandfather was truly beautiful and filled my heart with so much joy, a feeling that only intensified as we learned more about them both as the story progressed.
A beautifully written tale of love, loss, and the importance of family. I adored this book.
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About the Author
Carly Schabowski worked as a journalist in both North Cyprus and Australia before returning to Oxford, where she studied for an MA and then a PhD in creative writing at Oxford Brookes University. Carly now teaches at Oxford Brookes University as an associate lecturer in Creative Writing for first and second-year English literature students.
*Thank you to Sarah Hardy at Bookouture and Carly Schabowski for providing me with a gifted copy of this book in return for my honest review. All thoughts are entirely my own and not influenced in any way.*