The Turn Of The Tide by Alan Jones – Review.

About The Book

The Turn of the Tide is the third book in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy: a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.

As Hitler’s greed turns eastwards to the fertile and oil rich Soviet heartlands, life for the Kästner and the Nussbaum families disintegrates and fragments as the Nazis tighten the noose on German and Polish Jews. Implementing Endlösung der Judenfrage, the ‘Final Solution to the Jewish Problem’, Hitler, Himmler, Heydrich and Eichmann plan to have Germany, and Europe, Judenrein, ‘cleansed of Jews’.

General Erich Kästner, increasingly alone, fights a losing battle to protect his friends, and their fellow Jews, putting himself and his family in jeopardy.

As the tide of war turns, he looks anxiously to the Soviets in the east, and to the Western Allies, desperately hoping, despite his patriotism, that Germany is defeated before there are no Jews left in the countries occupied by the Third Reich.
When an assassination attempt on Hitler and his henchmen fails, Erich Kästner himself comes under the scrutiny of the Gestapo, and his own survival, and that of his family, becomes uncertain.

As the war draws to an end, with Germany in ruins, time is running out for the Kästners and the Nussbaums…

My Review

The Turn Of The Tide, book three in the Sturmtaucher series, is one I have been trying to read for a year. But with the length of it I knew I had to set aside quite a lot of reading time and I’m not very good at reading more than one book at a time. 

It is a series where you really need to read them all in order. The storyline concerns three families whose lives are connected throughout the three books, and whilst not confusing they are complex. But despite the gap in reading it didn’t take me long to remember who was who and probably more importantly what they had done.

This book mainly takes place in the last few years of the war and the months after. It shows Franz and Johann as POWs in Scotland, Ruth and Manny living with a family on the Isle of Man and then in London with both of them determined to support the British and in Manny’s case get revenge. It shows Erich and the remaining members of the Kastner family in Germany, trying to survive and still showing differing views on war. And it also chillingly shows the ruthless obsession shown by members of the Gestapo and their refusal to back down in their pursuit of Erich.

Whilst the ending of the war is described in detail, much of the novel shows the attempts by many to get answers about loved ones. I could see clearly their devastation that all felt over their city being destroyed and seeing the horror of people picking through the rubble that used to be their homes. The author showed that there were more than the main characters who were searching, all hoping that they would find out one way or another. I can’t even begin to imagine how many never found out. The most emotional parts of this novel, for me, was knowing exactly what happened to their families or friends but those looking didn’t. 

I learned more about the war from this book than anything else I have read or watched on TV. Many of the characters weren’t military, they were just normal people whose lives had been torn apart by the actions of leaders. How many were brainwashed, or chose to believe because it was easier. 

Heartbreaking, horrifying and original. Highly recommended.

Flight Of The Shearwater by Alan Jones – Review.

About The Book

Flight of the Shearwater: Book 2 in the Sturmtaucher Trilogy,a powerful and compelling story of two families torn apart by evil.

With Poland divided between Hitler’s Germany and Stalin’s Union of Soviet Republics, the increasingly confident Third Reich flexes its military muscles northwards into Denmark and Norway, while the rest of Europe watches anxiously over its shoulders.

General Erich Kästner, in his key role in the Abwehr, is fast becoming aware of the mass expulsion of Jews and other minority groups from Germany and from northern Poland, to the new ghettos of the Generalgouverment area of southern Poland, and has an inkling of what the National Socialists’ have in mind for Europe’s Jews.

As Holland and Belgium fall, and the British are routed at Dunkirk, barely escaping across the channel, the seemingly impregnable France collapses under the Wehrmacht Blitzkrieg, sealing the fate of millions of Jews, now trapped under Hitler’s rule.

The Nussbaums, thwarted in their attempts to escape to Denmark, desperately seek other routes out of Germany but, one by one, they are closed off, and they realise they have left it all too late…

My Review

Flight of the Shearwater is the second book in The Sturmtaucher trilogy and I would recommend that you read the books in order. These books are very long, but they need to be, this was a shameful period in history that was so harrowing with the politics, pain, cruelty and acceptance of all of it by many. Anything less would feel like the events were being glossed over.

Whilst there is continuing focus on Erich, Yosef and Miriam, this novel also concentrates on some of the younger members of both families. You get to see the horror and guilt that both Franz and Johann feel when they realise what they have become involved in as part of the German army and the turmoil faced by Ruth and Manny when they have to leave behind their parents and overcome danger hoping for safety. 

Sadly, it also had to focus on some of the characters who believed in Hitler and everything he stood for. Maria, Eva and the female members of the once friendly Bohm family all made me cringe as I read. I found it fascinating but I was also increasingly upset by the attitudes and the amount of venom displayed. Especially when I read how Maria had no remorse or compassion for her former friends. I found their attitudes had more of an impact on me than the Gestapo and their determination to find out what was happening with the Kästners and Nussbaums on their sea trip. 

The novel is extremely detailed, with historical facts and the complexity of the early years of the war. The author shows how everyday people were duped by propaganda and the insider bulletins about how the Jewish community were being cut off and what the plans for them were. I was aware of certain aspects but I also learned a lot. I had no idea about the amount of control Germany had over Northern Europe, that there was a Jewish community on the Isle of Man or where any of the prisoner of war camps were in the UK.

I am happy that the third book in the series is available to read. I plan on reading it as soon as possible, I need to know what happens  to all of the people who feature in this outstanding series.

The Gathering Storm by Alan Jones – Blog Tour Review

About The Book

Kiel, Northern Germany, 1933. A naval city, the base for the German Baltic fleet, and the centre for German sailing, the venue for the upcoming Olympic regatta in 1936.

The Kästners, a prominent Military family, are part of the fabric of the city, and its social, naval and yachting circles. The Nussbaums are the second generation of their family to be in service with the Kästners as domestic staff, but the two households have a closer bond than most.

As Adolf Hitler and his National Socialist Party claw their way to power in 1933, life has never looked better for families like the Kästners. There is only one problem.

The Nussbaums are Jews.

The Sturmtaucher Trilogy documents the devastating effect on both families of the Nazis’ hateful ideology and the insidious erosion of the rights of Germany’s Jews.

When Germany descends ever deeper into dictatorship, General Erich Kästner tries desperately to protect his employees, and to spirit them to safety.

As the country tears itself apart, the darkness which envelops a nation threatens not only to destroy two families, but to plunge an entire continent into war.

My Review

With thanks to the author for the copy received. The Gathering Storm is the first part in a trilogy and takes place during the 1930s and the first few months of the war. I have read a few books that concern the Second World War but I have never read one quite as detailed as this before. Or one that covers the events from so many different points of view. Adult and children, officers and housewives. Some are Jewish who live in fear of losing everything. Some are lifelong friends or employers who worry about what is happening to their country. Some are social climbers who agree with everything that Hitler and his followers were doing. Their hatred and opinions made my skin crawl.

I found this book equally fascinating and horrifying. It is long, 800 pages, but it wouldn’t have worked in quite the same way if it was shorter. The reader needed to see how the different communities were affected by Hitler and his followers. I learnt so much from reading it. One example was Kristallnacht, I had heard of it but never knew why it happened. 

Even though it was the most difficult to read it was the Nussbaum’s story I wanted to read. Their life would have been typical of so many Jewish families at the time. Losing every bit of their freedom as the 1930s progressed. Their many friends, some who made it to Palestine and some who were deported, all who were losing everything they owned. The abuse their children suffered at school from former friends and teachers, it was heartbreaking to read. More so because you know it would have happened.

I don’t think I have ever felt so tense when reading a novel. I was desperate to know what would happen to the characters I met throughout. I felt relief that at least one survived the experience and was recalling events many years later. I hope there are more.

I need to know what happens next and will definitely be reading the second book in the series. Thankfully I only have a few months to wait. Well done Alan Jones, this novel is extraordinary.