“You can’t prepare yourself for the magnitude and emotional impact of this powerful novel.” —John Irving, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The World According to Garp
“Exceptional, layered and compelling…This book moves like a freight train.” —Amy Bloom, New York Times bestselling author of In Love
From the New York Times bestselling author John Boyne, a devastating, beautiful story about a woman who must confront the sins of her own terrible past, and a present in which it is never too late for bravery
Ninety-one-year-old Gretel Fernsby has lived in the same well-to-do mansion block in London for decades. She lives a quiet, comfortable life, despite her deeply disturbing, dark past. She doesn’t talk about her escape from Nazi Germany at age 12. She doesn’t talk about the grim post-war years in France with her mother. Most of all, she doesn’t talk about her father, who was the commandant of one of the Reich’s most notorious extermination camps.
Then, a new family moves into the apartment below her. In spite of herself, Gretel can’t help but begin a friendship with the little boy, Henry, though his presence brings back memories she would rather forget. One night, she witnesses a disturbing, violent argument between Henry’s beautiful mother and his arrogant father, one that threatens Gretel’s hard-won, self-contained existence.
All The Broken Places moves back and forth in time between Gretel’s girlhood in Germany to present-day London as a woman whose life has been haunted by the past. Now, Gretel faces a similar crossroads to one she encountered long ago. Back then, she denied her own complicity, but now, faced with a chance to interrogate her guilt, grief and remorse, she can choose to save a young boy. If she does, she will be forced to reveal the secrets she has spent a lifetime protecting. This time, she can make a different choice than before—whatever the cost to herself….
One of those books that makes you sit with yourself for a moment at the end. It’s written beautifully, emotionally, and personally and offers a glimpse into a not often discussed part of the aftermath of WWII.
Sad but true
I couldn’t stop reading about our main character, 12 year old, Gretal, whose Father was the Commandant of “the other place” we later learn is Auschwitz.
She searches her entire life for the release of her guilt by association to find redemption or some sense of peace. The guilt she feels through the entire book becomes a bit overwhelming, although understandable.
The comparison of her evil Father, her weak, but beautiful Mother and her younger brother, finally at the ripe old age of 92 allow her the opportunity for redemption. This comes in the comparison of a narcissistic, evil Hollywood producer, who wreaks terror to his weak, gorgeous actress wife and young son whom he beats and controls through threats of death and drugs.
At 92 years of age, Gretal finally finds redemption in finding the strength to live without the lies from her past by helping those who need her to save them.
The ending is satisfying and hopeful. Ugly reminders of evil and beautiful in salvation!
Well written and difficult to put done. Excellent flow and great story telling.