Sunday, October 07, 2012

The Blue Suitcase by Marianne Wheelaghan

Lots of novels have been written about the Second World War. Very few of them though are told from the point of view of ordinary German people.

The Blue Suitcase is Marianne Wheelaghan's first novel, based on her mother's diaries, the family's letters and additional historical research.

Told in the format of a diary, the novel follows Antonia from 1932 when she was 12, growing up in Silesia, a part of Germany that is now in Poland and ending in 1946, when she leaves Germany to start training as a nurse in the UK.

The diary format works brilliantly, you can sense Antonia's growing maturity, from her self centred attitude to her 12th birthday meal being disrupted through her unsuitable friendship with Liesl and Rolf who are the only children to befriend her when she first moves away from the town of Breslau (now Wroclaw) to a small village to her later forced labour helping to build the city defences during the siege of Breslau.

It is interesting to see the different reactions that her family have towards Hitler as he comes to power and takes over in Germany then their different responses to the war. One of her brothers joins the Communist party and is imprisoned in a series of concentration camps, another enthusiastically becomes a member of the Hitler Youth.Her mother, a doctor, vociferously opposes Hitler, and is pushed out of her job by his edicts against women working in the professions. She later becomes very ill.

This compelling and moving novel is essential reading for anyone who wants to see how the Second World War affected ordinary German families.


Having recently being totally taken in by Binjamin Wilkormski's Fragments (which I review here) I was pleased to read on Marianne's website a full explanation of  how she wrote the book and where her information came from! (Scroll down on this page).

The Blue Suitcase by Marianne Wheelaghan, published by Pilrig Press


Although this novel is unusual in being told from the viewpoint of an ordinary German during 2nd World War, it isn't unique. I recently reviewed Portrait of the Mother as a Young Woman by Friedrick Christian Delius.

As ever, all coloured text contains hyperlinks that take you to other webpages where you can find out more.


Marianne Wheelaghan said...

Hi Juliet, thanks so much for this review. It's always nice when someone takes the time to read your book but to then go to the trouble to write a review of it, is especially lovely. Very much appreciated. Cheers :)

Marianne Wheelaghan said...

I think there's an unspoken pact between readers and writers, ground rules, if you like, where readers understand that a fiction is not an actual true story, and a history is not a fiction. If a writer breaks these rules, the reader feels cheated and the truth of the imagined story is undermined. It doesn't matter how powerful the story, or that a good fiction is the "truth behind the lie", the damage has been done, which is a pity in this case as it sounds as if Wilkomirski wrote a moving story. I wonder why he didn't write a fiction?

"Fiction is not a dream, nor is it guesswork. It is imagining based on facts, and the facts must be accurate or the work of imagining will not stand up.” Margaret Culkin Banning

Crafty Green Poet said...

Hi Marianne - I think Wilkimorski had false memory syndrome and believed he was writing the truth. It all seems a bit complicated and I'm no longer at all sure what to feel about his book,

betty-NZ said...

Sounds like this book has a lot of intrigue.

nmj said...

Thanks for highlighting this novel, Juliet, definitely one I would like to read! NASIM

John said...

Very nice review . Thank you very much :)

John said...

Nice review. Thank you very much :)